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Hearts and roses, cards and candies – today is all about celebrating love. For those who look forward to celebrating this love-filled holiday each year, Valentine’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to indulge in your favorite sweet treats. According to the National Retail Federation, people are expected to spend $19.6 billion on the holiday this year, up from $18.2 billion in 2017. Of those who celebrate, 55% are planning to give the gift candy. Chocolate always seems to be a favorite gift for this holiday, because let’s face it, who can really pass up those adorable heart-shaped boxes? But, if you’re in the market for the perfect chocolate-based gift this year, one thing to consider is how eco-friendly the products are that you are purchasing.

While the US is a large consumer of chocolate, the cocao plant does not typically grow in the states, and is instead farmed in places like Africa and South America. In the past, production in cocao-growing countries has gone unchecked, leading to devastating deforestation and destruction of the local ecosystem. For example, in Ghana alone, it had been estimated that 2% of the forest is destroyed each year in the pursuit of chocolate production. While statistics like these are disheartening, the good news is that today, many chocolate companies are starting to focus more on ensuring their products are sourced ethically.

If you’re in the market for chocolate this Valentine’s Day, whether for a loved one or as a gift for your business’ customers, here are some things to consider before you buy:

How is the Chocolate Produced?

A study from the World Resources Institute found that producing a 7 ounce milk chocolate bar from a cleared rainforest is the Co2 equivalent of driving 3.2 miles in a car. It’s even higher – at 4.9 miles – when producing the same size dark chocolate bar. Companies that are addressing this issue often work closely to support farmers and ensure environmental best practices are being observed. They also adhere to common environmental standards like reducing water usage and decreasing carbon emissions. And although it might not be solely green-focused, investing in chocolate companies that treat local farmers well makes a big difference in the lives of people – many children – who work hard to make this treat available to the masses. There have been many stories of forced child labor in the chocolate industry, and buying from companies that are working to oppose this plays an integral part in making ethical chocolate purchase decisions.

Has the Chocolate Company Made a Statement on Protecting the Environment?

Many companies may indicate that they care about becoming eco-friendly, but until they take action, it may make sense for your business to seek out other companies that are actually making a difference. Smaller chocolate companies are often formed with eco-friendly practices in mind. You may pay more for these premium products, but you can rest assured knowing that your money is going toward purchasing chocolate with the environment in mind. If you want to buy from the bigger chocolatiers, you’ll want to look for a visible statements of eco-support. For example, Cadbury, owned by Mondelez International, has a page on their website dedicated to explaining their green efforts. So does Mars, which is working toward certifying that all of the company’s cocao is sustainably produced by 2020. The top chocolate producers also released a joint statement in 2017 showing their commitment to address deforestation issues. It’s information like this that you want to look for when making purchasing decisions. These types of public statements make the company more accountable to their efforts, and can help you and your business feel confident that you are investing in companies that are not just walking the walk, but talking the talk as well.

What Does the Packaging Tell You?

In additional to looking for companies that are making smart packaging choices, from using recycled materials to biodegradable wrappers, what is printed on the packaging matters, too. When looking for eco-friendly chocolate, you first want to take a look at the seals that appear on the packaging. You can start by looking for words on the packaging like “organic” and “fair trade,” which indicate that the company does not use GMOs and that fair labor practices are being observed. But it is also a good idea to seek out chocolates that boast packaging indications that show they are “direct trade” or “bean-to-bar” companies. These companies have gone above and beyond to ensure that they are cutting out the middleman and working directly with the farmers who supply their cocao. Most companies will have certification through a 3rd party vendor, so look for that as well when you’re examining the packaging.

Chocolate is a huge part of the Valentine’s Day tradition, and it’s likely to stay that way for years to come. If you’re celebrating, you can still help to protect the environment by doing a little research on the brands with which you are doing business. A little effort goes a long way in helping to support the companies that are making an effort to inject more green practices into their chocolate production. For some companies you can support now, take a look at the lists here and here.

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