What's the Most Eco-Friendly Chocolate to Buy for Easter?

Public Domain. MaxPixel – Lindt took the 'Good Egg' award this year for efforts in improving traceability and agro-forestry practices.

Mighty Earth has released a scorecard for chocolate brands and retailers to help you make a good choice.

Chocolate is flying off supermarket shelves in anticipation of Easter this weekend. It's the biggest chocolate-eating season of the year, bigger even than Halloween. For most kids, the extent of their chocolate-related concerns will be whether to nibble their bunny's ears or the feet first. But for the farmers who grew the cocoa to produce that chocolate bunny, there is a daily struggle to put food on the table for their families.

The chocolate industry is a dark and bitter one, rife with poverty, child labor, agricultural pollution, and deforestation. And yet, so many of these problems could be solved if the big companies controlling the cocoa trade implemented higher labor and wage standards. Some do, but many do not, which is why it's helpful when environmental organizations decipher what is going on behind the scenes.

The annual Easter Buyer's Guide for Environmental Chocolate, created by environmental advocacy group Mighty Earth, is a useful guideline for conscientious chocolate buyers. It's a set of scorecards for more than 50 chocolate brands, retailers, and suppliers, designed to help people make more ethical and eco-friendly choices.

Companies are ranked in categories that include deforestation policies in West Africa and globally; agroforestry, which is "a way of measuring how companies are doing on shifting away from destructive ‘full sun’ monoculture to forest-friendly, shade-grown, agro-ecological cocoa"; whether or not companies pay a living wage; and how traceable their supply chains are.

Top-ranking brands include Lindt (winner of this year's Good Egg award), Chocolats Halba, Valrhona, and Tony's Chocolonely. Ranking lowest are Starbucks, Morinaga, Itochu, Lotte, Pladis (owns Godiva, Digestives, McVitie's, Ulker), and Whittaker's. Somewhere in the middle are Unilever, General Mills, Ferrero, Mars, Nestle, Mondelez, and Hershey's. (See full list here.)

The recipient of this year's 'Rotten Egg' award is Sucden, which is described as one of the least responsive cocoa traders. It refuses to

"engage with citizen groups, trace its cocoa, commit to deforestation-free cocoa, or switch to environmentally friendly agroforestry. Moreover, the company, which controls 15-20 percent of the world’s sugar, refuses to ensure a living income for [cocoa] farmers. It has failed to eliminate child and slave labor from its supply chain."

The scorecard doesn't mention Fairtrade certification, which has more of an ethical and labor focus than environmental, but is also an important consideration when making choices at the store. Nor does it talk about small-scale artisanal chocolate production that buys cocoa directly from farmers.

That chocolate bunny will taste more delicious than ever if you know someone has worked safely and been paid fairly to produce it. So, do a tiny bit of research and read some labels before grabbing the first bunny you see.