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San Churro, gluttony and my fair trade chocolate question

San Churro, if you don’t know, make the best hot chocolate in the world. The Azteca is full of chili and very thick hot chocolate goodness. A few weeks ago after a session of indulgence, my friend asked me how my drinking chocolate fit into my chocolate slavery morals when it comes to eating chocolate? I hadn’t thought about it. But drinking it, or even cooking with cocoa – it’s all part of the same problem.

So… another letter, and another reply:

Dear Juliet,

Firstly, let me thank you for your enquiry and your concern for cocoa growers is most definitely noted. I want to assure you that we are very aware of the issues in producing cocoa around the world and we are working to bring in Fair Trade certified chocolate from Spain.

I think it is important that I clarify at the outset that we are not actually manufacturers of chocolate but rather importers. We source our chocolate from a boutique manufacturer in mainland Spain. We have been lobbying them to produce a Fair Trade line of chocolate for some time now but, because of their size, and the requirements of certification, it hasn’t been economically viable for them. Unfortunately, Fair Trade is not really as high profile issue in Spain as it is here and the UK. What we have been assured by them though is that they have visited the growers at the farms they purchase their cocoa from and made sure that the working conditions are of a Fair Trade standard.

I know this may sound a little hollow, and if it were coming from a larger company I would be more sceptical, but our CEO has met with the directors personally and they are genuine people and have their heart in the right place. We are endeavouring to get a Fair Trade bar on to our shelves to give people the choice, but there is literally no one in Spain offering this product. We sell ourselves as a Spanish chocolate option, so it’s a big decision for us to get our chocolate from sources outside Spain.

Having met with both Susan Mizrahi, the Head of Human Trafficking for World Vision, and Cameron Neil from Fair Trade Australia we have discussed this issue in great depth. They also understand the difficulty involved in producing this product at a commercially viable price at a standard that is acceptable for our consumer. With Cadbury finally committing to Fair Trade (on Dairy Milk bars), this will undoubtedly draw more attention to the cause and increase the availability of the Fair Trade bean for everyone. With Cadbury becoming part of Kraft foods, Kraft has now become the world’s largest purchaser of cocoa product.

As I touched on before, there is also the issue in finding any suppliers making a product that is of a high enough quality to sell in our shops. Our chocolate is a high grade couverture, the same as used in many top restaurants around the world, and to date we haven’t actually tasted anything Fair Trade that stands up to this. There is a major risk, that if we put an inferior product on our shelves, we would actually put people off the idea of Fair Trade altogether. Fair Trade has been fighting public perception about their quality since its inception and I’m very conscious of doing anything that may harm the brand. Once again, greater availability should also see more quality producers and a rise in standards of product.

Whilst we are actively working behind the scenes to get  these changes through, what I am excited to say is that we will shortly be launching Fair Trade coffee in all our stores. We are aiming to have it rolled out by October/November so all our coffee will be 100% certified Fair Trade. Unlike many other companies that offer it only as an option or not at all, it will be our only choice. Whilst we are a chocolate shop, coffee actually makes up a significant part of our product mix, so I hope you see this as a step in the right direction. We are, as far as we know, the only chain that will be serving solely Fair Trade coffee in our stores.

We are comfortable with our suppliers assurance of their line of supply, and whilst certification would be fantastic, it’s simply not viable immediately with the additional costs and limitation it puts on their production ability. We will continue to lobby and raise awareness of the need for Fair Trade and over the coming months you should start to see some Fair Trade options on our shelves.

Once again, thank you for your email, it’s nice to know that there are consumers that think about what they buy. The more of you we have, the easier it becomes to make change happen.

Best Regards,


PHONE 03 9641 6888  |  FAX 03 9640 0244

(Note: I have permission to publish this letter)

The whole fair trade situation really is difficult and complex.

I can’t stand that humans beings are treated so badly for something that I enjoy so much, but I am also aware of how limiting our system is… all we can do is try. I am happy to know the efforts companies like San Churro are making toward fair trade and the cessation of slavery. I think Kylie is right – the more people that become aware of the issues, the easier it will be for real change to occur.

The guilt I’ll feel next time I drink an Azteca will be more to do with the gluttony (there is A LOT of chocolate in one glass) than the slavery behind the beans. I trust the intentions of this company so I will continue to enjoy the luxury I have access to, without guilt but still with continuing concern. And I will continue to work within my means toward the structural changes in our system that may actually address the roots of the problem. As with all endeavors I think it’s important to keep motivated, to encourage one another, to share information, and to enjoy the process as we move (albeit slowly) to a better, fairer world.

Or… am I (like someone commented on another of my chocolate blog entries) being too relaxed about this issue?

Love to hear your thoughts…

Photo: my beautiful mum relaxing with my gluttonous dog Bella.

Nestle’s reply.

Of the emails I sent, Nestle was the first to reply. I didn’t realised that they purchase 11% of the global supply of cocoa-that’s massive! Read their correspondence for yourself below if you wish. While I haven’t heard of UTZ certification, I have to say at least they replied, and the site clearly tells me one thing: CORPORATIONS DO HEAR US.

Of course, their care for the consumer comes only relative to the care for the shareholders – who in order to get profit require that the good be sold, but at least the message gets through even if just in part. Yet the question I have to ask is: how do I know that initiatives like this are more than a green-washing-like show. That is, how do I know it’s not all talk? I guess I can’t.

Since my last post my friend also recommended this ABC Four Corners article, that says even Fair Trade products are often not fairtrade – not because the company is being dishonest, but because the farmers and farm owners cheat the system.

So now I reface the dilemma I faced a couple of years ago when I first saw the full-length documentary on chocolate slavery: can I still enjoy my chocolate if I know it is most likely connected to the physical slavery of africans? No. No I can’t.

I’m not the only one facing dilemmas. The discussion board shows other’s opinions on the matter:


“The argument about the use of Fair Trade logos with Coffee and Cocoa trade has been going on for some years now, yet the status quo appears to remain static. In fact, I am surprised that it is taken the ABC this long to show the BBC’s Panarama exposé story on the inertia (or lack thereof) of “Fair Trade”, the organisation and their expoitive and cynical licencing of it’s trademark logo, whose motto should read, ïf you pay us more money, you will feel good”and be seen to be be doing something”. I have listened to both BBC World Service and other radio programmes who have covered the subject of child slavery and Fair Trade over the years and nothing has effectively changed. In fact I have an old VHS tape of a documentary presented by the British comedian, Alexei Sayle that was done some 20 years ago on this subject. I would be prepared to pay more for my coffee & chocolate, but only when I have confidence that the end producer receives those gains, and honours the agreements to produce the raw product fairly, including the cessation of child slave labour… I will remain patient and hopefully optimistic, but sadly, I fear that it may not happen during my remaining lifetime. I have long eshewed the practice of dropping bars of chocolate into my shopping trolley, and I suspect that unless consumers act with their conscience and act accordingly, the confectionary manufacturers will continue to look the other way, rather than act assertively, and will always put up the defence of “meeting their customers’ demands in the marketplace” or that other lame excuse ïf we don’t do it, our competitor’s will)… sad but true.”

And another comment:

My partner and I are feeling very frustrated at the lack of ‘bigger picture’ information provided in the chocolate story.

Whilst there was mention of poverty and even the admission of women who had no choice but to see their sons sold, the reporter didn’t do what was necessary in this story and detail the reality of these people’s existence.

We don’t accept that it’s ok for kids to be used in child labour but in many cases these kids have no better option in life. There isn’t a social security system in these countries – some will either work or starve to death. This side of the story was not detailed and these root issues are the real problem – not so much the actual kids or the people who’re bringing the kids to the farms.

In regards to Fair Trade, yes some truths were revealed however what about the issues around Fair Trade – like that only the richer farmers have the ability to get the fair trade certification and thus the cycle of poverty is exasperated – the rich get richer and the poor poorer.

I feel rather angry overall that this story was presented very much through Western eyes with Western standards. Asking the working kids ‘do you go to school’ as if that is our standard of whether something is ok or not. There are many millions of children in the world who do not have the privilege of attending school and this is a result of poverty. There needs to be an appreciation of the reality of the situation and that attending school for many is simply not an option, regardless of work.

It sucks… and it’s really difficult to evaluate. And like all forms of horrible structural violence, one feels hopeless in knowing what to do. One more comment from the ABC message board:

I fear there’s little anyone can do about child labour while corrupt governments hold sway in Ghana and Ivory Coast. What can we in Australia do to stop poverty in Africa? All strength to organisations like Fair Trade. Does anyone have any more ideas on what we can do from here in our comfortable country?

Hmmm Aldi has chocolate with single origin beans – Ecuador doesn’t use slave trade, does it?


Hi Juliet,

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the cocoa we purchase.

In Australia and New Zealand, Nestle has been working to ensure a reliable supply of independently certified cocoa from West Africa, in the quality and quantity we need to use in the manufacture of our chocolate.  We have now received the first shipments of UTZ certified cocoa into our factory at Campbellfield in Victoria and the first Kit Kat 4 Finger bars carrying the UTZ Certified label will be in store from later this year. UTZ Certified is a leading certification program similar to other programs such as Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade.

Please find attached some more detailed information about Nestle and the cocoa we purchase, and if you would like further information please visit our website

We thank you again for your contact.


Like you, we believe that cocoa must be grown responsibly and children must not be harmed. We purchase 11% of the global cocoa supply – a significant part of which is from West Africa. Therefore, we recognise that we must be exemplary in our actions supporting the cocoa industry.

Cocoa farmers in West Africa are battling aging, diseased plants and a lack of understanding of sustainable farming practices.  In Côte d’Ivoire in particular there has been a history of political instability and the communities are very poor. It is normal in this environment for children to assist on the family cocoa plantation, as is the case in many other cultures. What is not acceptable is when children are forced against their will, are working in unsafe conditions or are not receiving adequate education as a result

So to help address the key economic, social and environmental issues facing the cocoa farming communities we work with, we have developed The Cocoa Plan.

The Cocoa Plan brings together Nestlé’s activity to promote sustainable cocoa supply under one banner.  Over the next ten years we will invest globally AUD$113 million in the Plan.  This builds on the AUD$56 million invested in cocoa sustainability initiatives over the last 15 years.

The aim is to achieve higher quality and better supply of cocoa beans while making a positive difference in the lives of farmers, their families, communities and the cocoa industry.  Importantly this plan is being developed in partnership with local communities, government and NGO’s who understand what will make a difference in the long term.

Whilst the Cocoa Plan is principally focused on Côte d’Ivoire, it also covers other global cocoa sourcing regions as we have significant agricultural programmes in Ecuador and Venezuela and a developing program in Indonesia.   Below are some of our commitments:

Helping Farmers:

  • Financing Farmer Field School training (directly and as part of wider industry programmes) for improved cocoa farming practices and yields.

Nurturing a long term sustainable future – we have recently opened a Research and Development Centre in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, complementing our facility at Tours in France from where we can provide cocoa farmers with a million higher-yielding, stronger, cocoa trees each year from 2012.  Some details:

  • We are also training plant scientists in other cocoa producing countries, such as Ecuador and Indonesia in accelerated cocoa trees propagation
  • We work directly with cocoa cooperatives to help them and their farmers be more competitive and pay a premium for their higher quality cocoa
  • Providing higher yielding stronger cocoa trees has a direct effect on the quality, yield and sustainability of farmers’ crops, and in turn their income and quality of their life.

The Cocoa Journey

  • We’re reducing the complexity of the supply chain and speeding up the processing of raw cocoa beans from the farm to export by helping cooperatives directly

Better Social Conditions

  • As part of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), we want to help ensure that children in cocoa growing communities are not exploited and have access to education
  • Through partnerships such as with the Red Cross, we aim to deliver improvements in access to water and improved sanitation

Working with partners to improve social conditions and income

  • In order to encourage safe and sustainable agricultural practices, Nestlé is a founding member of UTZ Certified Cocoa which aims to develop a large scale cocoa certification system
  • We partner and assist government organisations such as the CNRA (Centre National Ivoirien de Recherche Agronomique), the partly state funded Ivorian Agricultural Research Centre that works on research in Côte d’Ivoire to improve the sustainability of cocoa farming

Our plan is clear with a “step by step” approach centred on our tree propagation programme, farmer assistance structure and the relationship with cooperatives.

In Australia and New Zealand, we have been working to ensure a reliable supply of independently certified cocoa from West Africa, in the quality and quantity we need to use in the manufacture of our chocolate.  We have now received the first shipments of UTZ certified cocoa into our factory in Victoria and the first Kit Kat 4 Finger bars carrying the UTZ Certified label will be in store later this year. UTZ Certified is a leading certification program similar to other programs such as Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade.

If you would like further information please visit our website


Africa. No time to be more creative. And there’s no chocolate in my house (not in protest (at least not yet in protest) but because I buy it, and I eat it within a night. I’m an addict. That’s why I’m so passionate about this topic).

Chocolate slavery and the tragic flaw of humanity in the 21st century

Didn’t they abolish slavery a couple of hundred years ago? Well no – it continues… and it continues such to provide the “haves” with what (in my opinion) is the most delicious tasting delightful experience of all my being: chocolate.


In my opinion there is NOTHING worse than physical slavery and nothing better than chocolate, and so I face the greatest polarity in my world: the best and worse wrapped into a block of bitter sweetness.

Can you believe that in today’s day and age some humans are deceiving other humans into leaving their homes, friends and family, imposing work on them by force (including whips), and without payment? I guess sexual slavery is worse than chocolate slavery, but in my opinion neither forms of slavery should be happening in the 21st century.

Why is slavery allowed to exist? It’s quite simple. It’s all because of the stock market.

The stock market? Yes. Because through the stock exchange responsibility for the consequences of a company’s actions are diffused.

This brings me to what I see to be the tragic flaw of human society in the 21st century: the rules of this game we call business. The first thing I learned at UTS when doing my Bachelor of Business was:

1. Investors invest in shares to make profit on their investment. Many investors live off these rewards, and don’t have to work. Many other people have jobs as intermediaries, buying and selling paper, to make profit from paper. People are making money without adding any physical value to the world.

2. CEOs have one most-important responsibility: to make profits for shareholders. For this he or she receives generous financial rewards, even if it involves decreasing the quality of the product for customers, decreasing the pay or conditions for employees, or destroying the planet.

While shareholders most likely value the needs of fellow and future humans and life on earth, the rules of the game dictate that money invested into shares is done to receive that profit.

There is clearly a disconnection between shareholders and the non-monetary outcomes of their investment. Is this a connection we really want to own up to?

I have some shares, (although I think they aren’t worth anything anymore after the stock market collapsed)…  I also have a little money in the bank and a little superannuation, so let’s take the scenario that all of this is actually a great investment of my time, and is something I am relying on for my future – would I really want these shares to earn less money?  No, of course not. With the rules as they stand, I would want my shares to earn as much as they can or else I would invest my money somewhere else.

I have friends (mainly from my business degree) who work in finance. Would I really want to put my friends out of a job? No. No I wouldn’t. What if the consequence of their jobs, earning lots of money from trading paper, are part of the cause of the poverty of people producing the physical goods we enjoy? I still choose my friends over these people I don’t know.

What if the result of my shares and their finance jobs is human slavery? That is where I draw a thick black line.

That’s where I say to my friend that the unhappiness they are causing is not worth the happiness they gain. That’s where I remind my friend that there’s more to life than the long hours they work in front of a computer playing with numbers. Money isn’t everything. That’s where I advise my friend to get rid of their mortgage, quit their job, and live off their savings for the rest of their life in South America. If only it was that easy… it could be, although my friend may not agree.

The present state of affairs is not a pretty one. Changing the system might be messy, it might be hard for some to deal with. The truth may hurt, but it hurts more if laid untold.

This connection between Shareholders, CEOs, Employees and Customers already exists of course, however, it is hidden behind the guise of “The Corporation”. Whoever was the man (I’m pretty sure it would have been a male) who created and legalised corporations to be treated as their own separate entities, with their own identities, privileges and liabilities separate from their members – should be held accountable for the destruction this single rule has caused for the world’s present and future. Whoever has power to change this law… well, I plead that you do – for the sake of your children.

People are working on solutions. I guess part of the solution is to report to shareholders on the “3 P’s” : Profit, People and Planet – of course, this is easier said than done given the problematic nature of measuring one’s impact on the lives of people or the conditions of the planet. At the very least, even without this reporting structure, surely the rules of the game should reflect the wider values of society?

I guess this would involve:

1. Holding shareholders responsible for the non-monetary consequences of their investment. Eg if you invest in a company that buys their chocolate beans on the stock exchange, a third which come from the Ivory Coast of which 90% involve slave labour, you should feel responsible for this. Also, if the company you have money invested in spills oil in the ocean, you should feel responsible for all the fish, dolphins and animals that die as a result of your investment. Maybe it should go further than “feeling responsible” – if warned and company procedures are not changed, investors should feel obligated to withdraw their investment, or else suffer the legal consequences of the inhuman violence their money is causing.

2. Holding CEOs responsible for the non-monetary aspects of the company they are in charge of. At the very least, the company’s impact on people and the planet needs to be recognised as just as important, if not more important, than profit for shareholders.

The thing is, would this work? Would it make a difference?

It could end up just like the greenwashing that so many companies are into today (making out they are good for the environment when they are still the same product in the same plastic packaging, or donating a dollar and saying they are helping fix the problem). Still, even if it’s only in words I guess you have to start somewhere.

Anyway today I got off my ass and did something tangible about these thoughts. I sent the following letter to a few more of the places where I have indulged in chocolate without knowing whether or not this chocolate comes from the slave farms:

1. Max Brenner (who make incredible waffles)

2. San Churro (who make the best hot chocolates I’ve ever tasted – with chilli!)

3. Nestle (just because I haven’t sent them a letter in a while)

Also I looked at Cadbury: At least they seem to be trying.

If you feel like sending whoever your favourite chocolate companies are a letter, feel free to use my wording:

Dear Max Brenner,

I am a very big fan of your hot chocolates, and your extremely delicious chocolate covered waffles.

Unfortunately I recently saw a chocolate documentary exposing the slavery practices behind the cocoa bean industry on the Ivory Coast. And so I now I simply cannot justify buying chocolate from companies who buy their cocoa beans from the stock exchange (as these are most likely connected to the horrific slavery, which I believe should NOT be allowed in today’s day and age).

I am reviewing my favourite chocolate companies for my blog, so can you please tell me where you get your beans?

Are you moving toward some kind of a fair trade supply chain?

Thank you in advance for your time in replying to this email.



Anyway, I’ll let you know if I hear back from any of them. If you have any thoughts on how the roles of The Corporation, The Shareholder and The CEO might be better defined, write a comment for me – or if you don’t agree with what I say at all… either way I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My gorgeous sisters and cousins indulging in chocolate fondue Bennett-style. I think it was fairtrade chocolate, I hope…

Happy Ishtar!

Easter is celebrated at Spring equinox, a time that for thousands of years was a celebration of the goddess Ishtar resurrecting the god of food and vegetation (Babylonian god Tammuz / Sumerian god Dumuzid).

Ohhhh, it makes so much sense!

The burgeoning of spring: a time of fertility, when rabbits lay eggs, flowers come out, seeds sprout and our food grows. Easter is a wonderful celebration of the sun’s warmth returning to us, a celebration of new life, and best of all – CHOCOLATE EGGS!!!

Springtime means summer is on it’s way – the SUN has been resurrected!

I love the sun. I worship the sun. After an amazing sunset on the beaches in Salvador, Brazil, one claps and cheers the sun as it retires for the day. Without the sun, there would be no life on earth, so it does deserve a little appreciation.

When spring begins and the sun’s rays get stronger, we are talking about a pretty important resurrection! But not a literal one.

Just like Christmas, early Christians adopted and adapted this pagan tradition to be their own. NO WHERE in the bible does it talk about Easter. Just like NO WHERE in the bible does Jesus ask to be worshiped.

It may be worth mentioning that the Bible does refer to the Ishtar tradition: in see Ezekiel 8:13-14 a woman weeping for Tammuz is seen as an “abomination”!

It seems strange that Easter has been adopted – in both dates and traditions (ie spring equinox and with exchange of Easter eggs) – by religious followers of the same holy book that describes the tradition as an abomination…

Rather than celebrating the resurrection of the sun, Easter is has become a celebration of the resurrection of the Son. Hm.

Tell me, what makes more sense:

a) that Jesus was sent by God to die on the cross and  “save you from your sins” and then physically rise back to being human and 40-days later ascend into heaven;


b) that Jesus (or other men of the late 1st century BC / early 1st century AD) heard the Buddhist philosophies of love and non-violence, and created movement toward the “kingdom of heaven” ie peace on earth. In time those rebelling against Roman rule were killed by the religious/political leaders of the day who saw the growing movement as a threat.

Is it possible that after the horrific death the early Christians felt Jesus energy come to them and “tell them” to continue with the peace movement? After my Opa died I felt his energy outside the hospital, I could see his energy around me, in the trees, in the air, everywhere – I suppose that is a form of resurrection.

Is it possible that the idea of Christ’s resurrection being physical, with a missing body, was added to the Christan gospels in order to synthesize Judaism with Paganism and gain momentum for this movement? Was this even intended to be understood as physical?

Scholars, both Christian and secular, agree that the part about the resurrection in the gospel of Mark was added a few hundred years after the writer of Mark finished documenting the story. Hmmm… I wonder where else has been added?

Enough enough enough – Easter, I mean Ishtar, is time for celebration.

I do have one final question: now that we have re-established the underlying meaning of Ishtar/Easter, can someone please explain to me why in Australia – as leaves turn orange, as the sun is retiring earlier and its intensity slowly dying – am I eating this chocolate bunny??? I’m not complaining, I love chocolate maybe even more than I love the sun. But still, shouldn’t it be spring?

The Christmas Pudge… and a Love of Beer

So I borrowed my mum’s scales to check the Christmas damage. 64 kilos. What the f??? I don’t step on scales so often, judging by measurement more than kilos. But, well, “in the day” I weighed 55kgs. And on average I think I’m around 58-60kgs. I’ve seen myself at 62kgs, and I know I’ve complained about feeling fat on this website before. But 64???

Ok, time to get back into routine: a walk in the morning before breakfast to reconnect my mind and body; a yoga or pilates session a few times a week, teaching it if possible so I can get paid for it rather than pay; and no more beer. At least for a little while. The poggy beer belly has to go. Or chocolate. And no more cheese. Well that’s was my resolution this morning.

I got home today from working a good three and a half hours at the office (being a casual has it’s pluses, and its minuses – depending on how you look at it) and had the choice: beer or pilates. I surprised myself and put on some ultra relaxing yoga music, pulled out the beautiful yoga mat I got for Christmas and did, well, at least I did thirty minutes of it. The stretching felt insanely incredible, as it always does but particularly when it’s been a while. The repetitions of butt exercises killed more than usual, again as it does when it’s been a while.

And then, the gorgeous funky little bar stool I bought today (when there wasn’t enough work to justify my being there) was calling my bottom, singing out: “come on, sit, try me out, do some writing, check your email, write something for your blog…” So here I am, drinking a beer and writing this entry. Hey, my friend left me coronas after NY, along with far too much chocolate and cheese, what am I supposed to do?

But it’s ok, I’m back on the upward spiral. I did half an hour of pilates and literally looking in the mirror I can see the difference: in my fresher-looking skin, brighter-looking eyes, and straightened up poster. “Half-an-hour did that?!” Yep – that’s what proper breathing does – it pumps oxygen through your system. That’s what mind-body connection and good posture does – encourages a central nervous system that works efficiently. My mind felt relaxed, centred, alert. That’s right – now I remember why I like pilates.

I’m not in a huge hurry to loose my Christmas pudge; I might even enjoy it for a (hopefully brief) moment. In good time I’ll be teaching pilates again and seeing as out the window the blue sky seems to have pushed away the clouds, I guess my “it’s raining” excuse is pushed out of existence too. These two little tricks seem to speed the metabolism enough to carry me through my little vices… so metabolic rate you had better bucker up – cause I’m not ready to stop enjoying the beer, or the chocie or the cheese – at least not while they’re lurking in my fridge.

Temporality & my chocolate belly

Ok I know that’s a shocking photo (it’s from a family celebration for my sister’s engagement last night which makes it even worse)… but I think it’s worth a laugh. And I tell you what, the chocolate semi fredo I’m licking is the very best dessert in the world… and today I could tell…

I went to my first bikram yoga class tonight and in the 40+ degree heat I had a revelation.

Mirrors are commonplace in yoga studios but the nature of bikram leads one to strip off to bare essentials and in front of me I saw the consequence of last night’s dessert as well as what I can only assume is a result of last two years of full-on writing, not so much exercise, and too much indulging on my one true love (and brain food as I tell myself): chocolate. Ok it’s not an absolutely horrible tummy, and the ad hoc pilates classes I teach has ensured it is still in a reasonably toned condition but I tell you what – it’s a hell of a lot wider than the 60cm waistline it once was… That was NOT my revelation. I know I’ve put on a few kilos since I finished full time modeling, and I really don’t think my little body complaints are what you want to read or what I want to shout out to the world.

My revelation came as the yoga instructor told us to love everything ourselves and treat ourselves with love. I looked at my belly and thought, hmmm how can I love this? And then it came to me. I CAN love it. I can love it in this moment – accepting that this moment that it is a temporary state. ‘Bikram will going to change everything’ I tried to convince myself, also vowing to cut down on excessive indulgences in order to morph my body at least a little bit closer to my preferred measurements.

Ok I know this all a very superficial rant but there is a deeper message to come…

In the car I drove in silence and let my mind continue down this stream of thought: the temporal states from which we experience our lives. That is, the temporal state of mind – how in every moment we can learn something new and change everything we think. And a temporal state of body – our cells constantly regenerating and, depending on our lifestyle, our body constantly changes for good or bad.

Then I contemplated our soul. Does our soul change? I’m not so sure. Maybe this is the only non-temporal part of us?

Half asleep as I write (this yoga is fricking intense, dehydrating, and well maybe after my 10 day trial I can let you know if it’s worth it…) I googled ‘temporality’ because I thought it was a word but my spell checker was telling me it wasn’t. Anyway wikipedia informed me that temporality refers to philosophizing about time – be it linear, circular or other… and how a temporal morality (temporality for short) refers to a moral philosophy based in the belief that “the ultimate commodity any person has is their own time (i.e. their life, lifespan, their time in the present) and they are free to spend that time as they wish as long as their actions do not impinge on (harm) another person’s time (via injury, theft, lies, etc.).” I like this.

Life is a wave that our soul rides: our consciousness simultaneously creates and experiences and we morph like the rolling waters – living in the moment and knowing that one day arrive at the shore. We may long for the safety of the shore but I think that it is the day we get there that we will reminisce the open ocean, the excitement of the unknowns and the metamorphosis we were experiencing in fear.

Getting to the point. We can change our minds and bodies in whatever ways we want in the moments to come but seeing as they are the way they are in the present we may as well embrace them. It’s about the process, not the result. We can love ourselves as we are today and plan for what states we want to be in tomorrow. I guess that means I should love my chocolate belly right now and (hopefully) enjoy watching it shrink in those massive yoga mirrors…  😛

Is Lindt chocolate slave chocolate?

This blog on the ethics of Lindt chocolate is a live entry on a live issue, due to the many hits and comments it has attracted. As far as I’m aware there is no short answer to the question “is Lindt chocolate slave chocolate?” While of course Lindt don’t condone child slavery or human trafficking, and they do have some measures in place that decrease the chances of slavery, myself and others hoping for a guarantee have been left hanging.

My dilemma is that I am addicted to chocolate, and I especially love Lindt chocolates, but I am also committed to the principles of universal human rights, ending slavery and trafficking in all its forms, and working toward a more peaceful and just global society. Of course, chocolate is not the only industry involving slave labour, and stopping slave labour is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addressing the vast injustice built into the world system. Still you have to start somewhere, right?

This blog started out with an email to Lindt in 2008, which never received a reply. It was prompted by a documentary I watched on slave labour in cocoa farms, and learning of estimates that over 100,000 children are working on cocoa farms with more than 10,000 trafficked in the Ivory Coast alone (which produces some 70% of the world’s cocoa). I boycotted my favourite chocolate for a full year.

When I emailed again in 2009, I received the following reply:

Dear Ms. Bennett

Thank you very much for your request concerning cocoa sourcing. It has been forwarded to us at the Lindt & Sprüngli Headquarters in Switzerland because the very important topic of sustainable cocoa sourcing is committing the whole Lindt & Sprüngli group and not only our 100% subsidiary in Australia.

In a general way, as far as our sourcing of raw materials for all our group companies is concerned, we kindly ask you to notice the following points:

Lindt & Sprüngli is one of the few chocolate makers that have complete control over every step of the production chain starting with the precise selection of the finest cocoa varieties from the best growing areas in the world right on through the careful and expert processing until ending with the elegant packaging. To safeguard the uniform and consistently high quality of all our chocolate products, all ingredients are thoroughly tested in our own laboratories before and after purchase, so that we can be sure that their quality constantly meets the highest standards.

While cocoa is currently traded at the commodity stock exchanges, superior grade cocoa beans (so called flavor beans or fine grade cocoa), as we utilize to a great extent for the manufacturing of our premium products, are purchased through traders at a substantial premium price over ordinary bulk cocoa. These finest grade cocoa beans (also called “Criollo” cocoa) can only be grown in specific geographical areas (Central and South America, Caribbean Area). While the fine grade cocoa production is a very small part of the world’s supply, it is exactly those (together with the Trinitario cocoa which is also considered as fine grade cocoa) for which Lindt & Sprüngli’s demand is very high. The remaining part of cocoa beans used by our company mainly for fillings, so called “Forastero” cocoa, are not sourced from Ivory Coast where most of the allegations about child labour originate, but from Ghana, where one of the top quality Forastero beans come from and where a premium price is paid for.

Lindt & Sprüngli is extremely concerned about possible practices of child labour and can assure you that we condemn any abusive practices. This is one of the reasons why we do not source cocoa beans from Ivory Coast. Prudent and conscientious relations with the environment and with the communities in which we live and work are important to us and enshrined in our Company Credo. In the procurement of our raw materials, great importance is therefore attached to compliance with the rules of sustainable conduct. This includes respect for social and societal aspects, such as working conditions and incomes of farmers in the growing countries, support and promotion of environmentally friendly production conditions, and payment of fair prices for raw materials which satisfy our stringent quality criteria.

In our opinion and to our regret, the existing fair trade organizations cannot continually supply us with the essential quality or quantities required. That is the reason why we refrain from the purchasing of cocoas from such organizations and look for other means of advocating responsible and sustainable dealings with our most important raw material, cocoa. As a matter of fact, there are many ways to strive for sustainable and responsible cocoa sourcing practices. This can also include individual projects and purchasing methods.

May we in particular bring the following to your attention:

The control of the overall production process from the selection of the best cocoa beans to the ready-packed product is one of the important aspects for the guarantee of the reliable premium quality of LINDT products. Another very valuable aspect is the traceability of the processed cocoa beans. For this purpose Lindt & Sprüngli subscribed to a new sourcing model in Ghana. This new procurement system contains binding guidelines between local cocoa suppliers and Lindt & Sprüngli. Within the framework of this project, Lindt & Sprüngli not only guarantees stable prices for the farmers involved, but also best quality and traceability of cocoa beans sourced in Ghana. Furthermore, Lindt & Sprüngli pays an extra-fee for those beans, which is partly allocated in favour of a foundation in charge of target-oriented social projects, the development of regional infrastructure and the continuous improvement of cocoa quality ( The projects supported by this foundation will be controlled by an independent, international audit committee. Lindt & Sprüngli is convinced that this purchasing strategy is a crucial prerequisite to better control the buying process of cocoa beans while at the same time countervailing local grievances in producing regions such as child labour. With this self-contained purchasing concept, which will be fully effective from 2009 onwards, Lindt & Sprüngli makes a solid contribution to the promotion of social compatible and to fair economic conditions for the cocoa farmers in Ghana. Based on the first positive results from the Ghana project, Lindt & Sprüngli is considering to extend this purchasing concept to fine-flavour cocoa beans in Latin America.

Moreover, through membership and active participation in local branch associations or international non-profit organizations such as the WORLD COCOA FOUNDATION we support the underlying idea of sustainable cocoa growing and provide financial contributions to that end. WCF is a partnership between the cocoa-processing industry and government agencies, international associations, trade organizations, and non-Governmental Organizations. The aim of this cooperation is to safeguard stable and secure cocoa supplies. This is done by taking measures to increase revenues and re-duce harvest losses, while also securing income conditions that enable cocoa farmers in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to lead a viable and worthwhile life.

But Lindt & Sprüngli’s commitment in the areas of cocoa production and sustainability is also strengthened by our direct support of other specific projects that bring direct benefits to the countries of origin. With that aim in mind, we support, for example, the Sustainable Tree Crop Program (STCP) in West Africa as well as research projects to secure and develop cocoa cultivation and processing with a view toward the supply of high-quality raw materials.

With a share of around 70% of world cocoa production, West Africa is the key region in this regard. Yields on the cultivation and sale of cocoa are the key to the survival of a high proportion of the local farming population. The STCP was started as a pilot project primarily to improve the cocoa economy, which is based on small farming structures in the West African countries of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The aim of STCP is to improve the economic and social welfare of small farmers and their communities, accompanied by safeguards for ecological sustainability in agriculture. The main points of action are: promotion of production and distribution of high-quality cocoa, improvement of market access and of the incomes of the small producers, development of environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically sustainable systems of cocoa cultivation. The projects concentrate mainly on integrated cultivation and harvest management, control of insect damages, cocoa quality improvement, the development of organizational skills and tools and the awareness of social aspects, such as child labor and diseases like AIDS. This information is passed on to the cocoa farmers primarily at the “Farmer Field Schools”, a participative training and educational scheme.

Support for scientific projects in the area of external applied botanical research is another element in the promotion of a sustainable cocoa economy: Today, the collection of genotypes of the Trinitario plant population, which became known as the “Imperial College Selections”, is among the world’s most important reference collections of genetic cocoa resources. A systematic evaluation of quality features and sensory properties is now being conducted as part of a project of the “Cocoa Research Unit” at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad with a view to future cultivation projects. Lindt & Sprüngli supports this project. The group also participates in further projects concerning applied cocoa research in South America.

It is our hope that the foregoing answers your questions and emphasizes our commitment to help establish sustainable, long-term solutions for cocoa farmers.

Yours sincerely

This email satisfied my ethical concerns at the time, and I returned to buying my average of two Lindt chocolate blocks a week guilt free…

In the years that followed this blog received many-a comments, as you can see below. Fellow concerned consumers and citizens make the important point that the above may just be PR spin. It took me a while but now, as 2015 comes to a close, I am revisiting the issue again.

In a series of comments and discussion on the Lindt Facebook page, the question “how does Lindt ensure no slave labour is on their farms?” is left unanswered:

After receiving the same spiel as I did above, one of the commenters in this forum said to “Lindt Chocolate World”: ‘You say “our local partner can intervene if there is suspicion of abusive child labour in one of the farming communities” – but “can” is not “will” – there is a big difference; does the mightly Lindt put pressure on the local business people to ENSURE this intervention?’

This was asked in July 2011. The discussion continues to this day, but ‘Lindt Chocolate World” have not answered the question.

The Food Empowerment Project, have Lindt on their ethical chocolate list under “Cannot recommend but at least responded”: which isn’t good news for my Lindt habit…

So I have decided to email Lindt again, as a follow up to the above, to find out what measures they are taking to ensure that when chocolate-lovers buy their product they are not supporting any kind of human slavery. My email:

23 December 2015

Dear Lindt,

I have been a Lindt chocolate addict for many years, consuming a consistent average of two or three blocks a week. I am also committed to universal human rights, the cessation of slavery in all its forms, and working to build a more socially just world.

I emailed you back in 2008 and 2009 to learn about your ethical policy, and make sure by puchasing Lindt I was no supporting any form of slave labour. You will see from my blog entry: that I have been sharing the positive information that you provided on your ethical policy, and that a number of people have commented with their concerns that this is PR spin.

I am hoping that now, some six years on, you can provide additional information to concerned Lindt-lovers like myself, on how you monitor, prevent and address slave labour from being used on your Lindt-owned cocoa farms in Ghana? There is a comment on your Facebook pate that has attracted much attention, which leaves this question unanswered:

The question, as one of the other concerned chocolate-lover citizens asks is: “Ultimately: can you categorically guarantee that the money we spend on your chocolate doesn’t profit people who are using child slavery?Do you, as this questioner points out, delegate responsibility for preventing slavery to local NGOs, or do you have standards in place to monitor this yourself?

As you can see there are many people who will be happy to buy your products if you can provide a direct answer to this question, and put such mechanisms to guarantee child slavery (and human slavery in general) is not supported when we purchase your products.

I look forward to your reply.

Best regards,



I will post their reply as soon as I get it. Hopefully they do reply. Stay tuned…