After months of pressure, specialty chocolate company, Ghirardelli, sat down with us to talk about the cocoa supply sourcing that the company does in West Africa vs Fair Trade. We met with Steve Genzoli, Vice President of Quality Assurance/Research & Development and Dr. Piera Waibel, Sustainability Manager at Lindt & Sprüngli (the Swiss parent company of Ghirardelli) at the factory plant in San Leandro, CA.

We discussed much of the content of the series of letters that Ghirardelli and Global Exchange have exchanged (read them here) and asked lots of questions about Ghirardelli’s resistance to Fair Trade certification. Mr. Genzoli explained that Ghirardelli is proud of their ‘bean to bar’ control of the supply chain and treatment of farmers in Africa to workers in San Leandro, CA. We learned about the farming program that Ms Waibel leads in communities in Ghana where Ghirardelli sources, and plans to expand the projects by 2020.

The farming program is well considered and not without impact, but what we fundamentally disagree on is  Ghirardelli’s insistence that Fair Trade is not a useful certification to ensure fairness on the cocoa farms. Specifically two points.

Firstly, Ghirardelli claims that the conditions on the farms and the programs administered are ‘better than certification’. However the program lacks one of the very tenets of Fair Trade – independent monitoring by a certifying body that measures against universal standards. Instead, Ghirardelli is creating dependency from farmers and communities in ‘their’ system – meaning Ghirardelli farmers only grow for Ghirardelli, and are, therefore, dependent and vulnerable to the needs and whims of the company. Farmers in the Fair Trade system have much more freedom, are guaranteed a set price for their yield and sell beans to a larger pool of buyers, instead of being beholden to one company.

Secondly, the aim of Ghirardelli’s farming program is to increase the productivity yield of ‘their’ farmers. While higher yield will also increase income to farmers, the Fair Trade system’s ‘social premium’ puts decision making in the hands of the community in regards to use of money for collective, community projects. There are no predetermined ‘development’ projects – community choice and autonomous decision making is another tenet of the Fair Trade system.Ghirardelli_BWeagle

And a final piece of information Ghirardelli shared with us … They don’t think consumers, advocates, activists – you and I – take Fair Trade certification seriously!

After more than 10,000 messages asking Ghirardelli to go Fair Trade, hundreds of emails with details about Fair Trade certification and comments to the company like this one from Letitia H:

… I love Ghiradelli, but I stopped buying any chocolate that was not fair trade several years ago, because it is pretty much guaranteed to be produced by slave labor. Ever since then, despite missing one of my favorite brands, I have not had any Ghiradelli. Were the company to commit to fair trade, I would be HAPPY to start buying their products again!

… Ghirardelli thinks we don’t understand the importance of putting a Fair Trade label on it?

This meeting was just a step in the campaign, we will keep on trying. We were successful with Hershey’s and believe that with consistent pressure, and your help, we can get Ghirardelli to put a Fair Trade label on it!


Visit the Ghirardelli Action Center. Here you can send email, post to Facebook, Twitter, share with your friends and donate to make sure that this campaign continues until Ghirardelli puts a Fair Trade label on it!