New Podcast Investigates Environmental and Social Costs of Consumer Goods

Episode 1 asks why Nestlé rejected Fairtrade certification for its KitKat bar.

Cocoa Seeds within Cacao Fruit
The cacao tree produces the fruit that contains the cocoa seed, from which chocolate is made. Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

If you want to know more about how your favorite consumer goods are made, from chocolate bars to T-shirts, then a new podcast just launched by Fair World Project (FWP) might interest you. Called "For a Better World," it promises "deep investigative analysis of the environmental and social costs of commonly used consumer items and their corresponding supply chains." 

Each season will focus on a different product and any supply chain issues that relate to that product. For example, Season 1 is called "Nestlé's KitKat Unwrapped" and explores the multinational food company's decision in 2020 to abandon Fairtrade certification for the UK version of the KitKat, its most popular candy bar. It switched instead to Rainforest/Utz (formerly Rainforest Alliance), which FWP says prioritizes environmental stewardship over producers' wellbeing and does not guarantee a minimum price or offer an annual farmer-controlled premium for community development projects.

This decision has been devastating to cocoa farmers in West Africa, where the majority of the world's cocoa is produced; so podcast host Dana Geffner, who is also the executive director of Fair World Project, sets out to learn more about what's happening behind the scenes.

In Episode1, Geffner speaks to Fortin Bley and Franck Koman – president and coordinator, respectively, of the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, the farmer organization that supplied Nestlé with its cocoa – to gain first-hand perspective on what this decision means. She interviews Simran Sethi, journalist and author of "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love," to learn more about why paying fair prices for chocolate matters so much to farmers and what responsibility we have as consumers to do so if we want a truly sustainable chocolate supply. 

Together, these voices humanize a beloved food that's too often separated from its origins. It's easy to forget that impoverished, hardworking farmers in economically developing nations are responsible for one of our favorite luxury foods – especially one that's about to have a sales boost, thanks to Valentine's Day. 

The episode reveals how companies like Nestlé are quick to make, but then drop, promises of greater ethics and sustainability, and they're never really held to account because these commitments are voluntary. The various commitments are also not well understood by customers, who may not realize that for every dollar spent on chocolate, a mere 3 to 6 cents are going to the cocoa farmer – an amount that has dropped from 16 cents back in the 1980s.

The podcast's creation was inspired by the question, "What would it take to build a fairer food and farming system?" As Geffner explained in a press release, 

"It's clear that the status quo is not working for most of us, or for our planet. My hope is that by looking at the choices that built our current system and hearing from the people who are creating new alternatives, we can connect the dots between our everyday actions and the change we want to make."

After an hour of listening, I can honestly say I'm intrigued and eager to hear more. The next episode will be about sugar, another one of KitKat's main ingredients. The first season's eight episodes will be released every second Tuesday, from February 2 to April 27.

In the words of Jenica Caudill, podcast producer, "This series is about more than just a chocolate bar — it’s about balancing the scales of power, addressing climate change, and asking critical questions about our food system." The more we dig into that, the better systems we can build, and our world desperately needs that now. Give it a listen. You'll learn a lot.