Top 10 Ethical Chocolate Brands

What are the top chocolate brands when it comes to social and environmental impact? Here’s a first – a list of the top 10 ethical chocolate brands that’s based on user-generated data (that’s you!). Although it’s initially based on my own opinion, this list is designed to change over time with your input. You can upvote and downvote any of the brands and also nominate new brands to the list.

This is a first attempt at a user-generated ethical guide so I’m hoping that you’ll take a moment to vote: comment below or email me, jmskrb at gmail. Later, some information on how to rate the brands for ethics (social and environmental impact) but first, here’s the list of the top 10 ethical chocolate brands:

  1. Equal Exchange (10 votes)
  2. Alter Eco (10 votes)
  3. Theo  (8 votes)
  4. Endangered Species  (7 votes)
  5. Plamil  (6 votes)
  6. Tcho  (5 votes)
  7. Divine  (4 votes)
  8. Seed and Bean (3 votes)
  9. Beyond Good (2 votes)
  10. Tony’s Chocolonely  (1 vote)

Also consider:

  • Vego (1 vote)
  • Unreal (1 vote)

These last two positions are placeholders for additional candidates to make it onto the top 10 list. I encourage you to nominate a brand and it’ll get one vote and occupy one of these “runner up” positions. If your nominated brand gets more votes, it’ll make it onto the Top 10 list, bumping the #10 brand down to the runner up position. There are several other brands that I could have included, such as Chocolate and Love, Beyond Good, Pacari, and Traidcraft, to name a few.

Note that I’m trying to highlight brands that are fairly widely available. There are also smaller, locally-available chocolate makers that rate very well, ethically – I encourage you to support them too.

It’s probably useful to nominate brands to avoid (which you can also nominate, if you wish). Here are a few that are widely agreed upon as among the least ethical chocolate brands.

Brands to avoid: Hershey, Godiva, Nestlé.

Ethical chocolate – how to decide?

Some relevant information here on the Green Stars Project include posts on slavery in the chocolate industry, the importance of shade-grown coffee (which also applies to cacao), and the ethical evolution of peanut butter cups. I’ve also written posts about some of the brands listed here over on Ethical Bargains, so I’ll here are links to them and a brief summary of why these brands are on the list:

Alter Eco: Ingredients are predominantly fair trade certified, organic, and sourced from farmer-owned co-ops; Alter Eco is a certified B-Corporation; Carbon-neutral with Climate Neutral certification; Packaging is quite sustainable, including compostable wrappers for truffles; Alter Eco supports regenerative agroforestry to support forest ecosystems.

Endangered Species: Generated some nice vegan milk chocolate bars using plant-based milks; 10% of profits go to programs to protect endangered species; most of the ingredients are fair trade certified; Endangered Species Chocolate offsets the carbon footprint of company operations by purchasing Green-e renewable electricity; Commits to long-term partnerships with small farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.

Tony’s Chocolonely: Tony’s Chocolonely has raised awareness on slavery and child labor in the chocolate industry, particularly in West Africa, and is trying to change the system from within; Certified B-Corporation; Cocoa and sugar are fair trade certified (using a mass balance system for sugar); carbon-neutral; Uses the GoodShipping program (ships run on biofuel); Packaging is plastic-free (recycled and FSC-certified paper); Tony’s Chocolonely doesn’t discuss pesticide use and is only beginning to address shade-grown cacao and maintaining forest ecosystems; Dairy milk is a major ingredient in some bars.

I never do sponsored posts here on the Green Stars Project or on Ethical Bargains, to keep my research unbiased.

Top Ten Ethical Chocolate Brands. Logos for the top 10 ethical chocolate brands are shown. The list may change after user votes but initial brands are: Alter Eco, Equal Exchange, Theo, Endangered Species, Plamil, Tcho, Divine, Seed and Bean, Tony's Chocolonely, Beyond Good.

Original Top 10 Ethical Chocolate Brands list.

Hopefully the list at the top of this post will change over time, with your input. I’m going to preserve the original list here so that we can see how it has changed over time.

  1. Alter Eco  (10 votes)
  2. Equal Exchange  (9 votes)
  3. Theo  (8 votes)
  4. Endangered Species  (7 votes)
  5. Plamil  (6 votes)
  6. Tcho  (5 votes)
  7. Divine  (4 votes)
  8. Seed and Bean (3 votes)
  9. Tony’s Chocolonely  (2 votes)
  10. Unreal  (1 vote)

Also consider:

  • Nominate a brand!
  • Nominate a brand!

Chocolate brands to avoid: Hershey, Godiva, Nestlé.

Vote for your favorite ethical chocolate brand!

The most important thing here is that I’m asking you to vote. You don’t have to be an expert on ethics or chocolate to vote – use whatever reason you like to upvote, downvote, or nominate a new brand. But do please share the reason for your vote, either in a comment below or by email (jmskrb at gmail). You can do several at once. Here are some examples:

Upvote Divine because the brand is co-owned by cocoa farmers.

Upvote Tcho for transparency and improvements in sustainable packaging

Downvote Tony’s for heavy use of dairy milk as an ingredient.

Downvote Endangered Species for lack of organic cacao and little transparency on pesticide use.

Nominate Taza Chocolate for their Direct Trade program that adds a 15-20% price premium.

You can do several votes and give brief reasons, like the examples above, or write a longer comment explaining in more detail why you think one brand deserves to be upvoted / downvoted / nominated. For example, you could write a paragraph arguing that Tony’s deserves an upvote for its ambitious mission to end slavery on West African cacao farms. Or that Endangered Species deserves an upvote for making vegan dairy chocolate that’s as good as animal-based.  

Either way, you’ll be doing a valuable service by sharing your opinion and also taking part in this first attempt at user-generated ethical ratings!

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Ethical Chocolate Brands

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent money on chocolate bars. I’m trying to remember which ones I used to get when I had the $$…Chocolov, AlterEco, Endangered Species, and (I think?) the Equal Exchange hot cocoa. Even then, when I’m able to buy chocolate, I do go towards eco chocolate, but also what’s on sale. So, yeah, that was a long-winded way to say I don’t know how to vote because budget is what drives my buying choices, no matter what.

    1. Hey Willow. Your comment brings up a point I may not have made clear in this post. The voting should be purely based on ethics – which brands have the most positive social and environmental impact. In other words, which should get the highest Green Stars rating. The other factors, like taste and value, would go into the conventional “gold star” rating and should be considered separately. Having said that, you could argue that affordability is also a social impact, to some extent. Several of the brands on the list are pretty affordable (e.g., Endangered Species) – as is the case in many industries, the premium for a more ethical ingredient is not that high, relative to the sale price of the finished product. And yet, the major corporations won’t pay it.

  2. My uninformed top vote is for Equal Exchange because the packaging claims they support small-scale organic farmers. Their chocolate also tastes better than other brands. To be honest, though, I wait for sales because all of the choices are expensive luxuries.

  3. Hey Violet – that’s a great suggestion – thanks so much for commenting!
    I actually tried Vego’s for the first time a few months ago in Ireland – the hazelnut chocolate bar. Loved it!
    You’re right – it deserves to be on the list – all of their their products are also vegan and palm oil free.
    I was surprised that the hazelnut bar was vegan – it really tastes like milk chocolate. I think they achieve the creaminess by mixing hazelnut paste into the chocolate (gianduja).
    I’ll add Vego to the list.
    Cheers!
    J

Leave a Reply