Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Whether this means sweet gifts from your SO or buying a box (or two) of chocolates to feast on yourself, chocolate is a prominent facet of the holiday. The expansive consumerist culture surrounding this chocoholic phenomenon provides the perfect opportunity to start choosing your candy with Mother Nature in mind. 

You may be wondering how chocolate could possibly have a negative impact on the planet. As it turns out, over 2 million children in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire are forced to work in harmful environments on cocoa farms. Most of the world's cocoa production originates from such West African farms, where children and farmers live off of less than $1 a day.

Making sustainable chocolate brands mainstream has never been so crucial. Companies who commit to the prohibition of forced labor and discrimination are integral to escalating the growing awareness toward these inequities. To combat this widespread exploitation of cocoa farmers, try out these sustainable chocolate brands so you can enjoy their delicacies with a sound mind and a happy stomach.

1. Alter Eco

Alter Eco prides itself in its full-circle approach to eating, farming, and doing business. The company derives 100% of its products from small farmer-operated sources, but they don't stop with fair trade labor—they negatively offset their carbon footprint (emit less carbon than they use) and have pioneered their own compostable packaging. Alter Eco's passion is visible in its diverse flavor variety with types such as Deep Dark Salt and Malt, Dark Salted Burnt Caramel, and Deep Dark Quinoa Crunch.

2. Divine Chocolate

This chocolate is not only divine in its luxurious quality—the Ghanaian farmers who harvest the cocoa for Divine Chocolate actually share 44% of the company's profits. The people who are directly involved in the production process have the loudest voices, allowing them to advocate for the outcomes that will best benefit the local farming communities and their families. Divine also supports female workers to rise in their profession to become the breadwinners in a world where cocoa farming is merely considered "men's work." 

So basically buying delicious chocolate bars such as Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt, Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt, and Mint Dark Chocolate through sustainable brands like Divine can actually push companies to build a greener, equal-opportunity world!

3. Endangered Species Chocolate

Every product that Endangered Species Chocolate makes complies with three of their most valued principles: exceptional taste, high-quality ingredients, and fair trade and sourcing. Not only are they dedicated to supporting sustainable farming practices by using clean ingredients that are fully traceable to Fairtrade West African farms, but they also fuel wildlife conservation efforts worldwide. Plus they have really cute animals on the packaging (i.e. Owl Bites, Penguin Bars, and Elephant Bars). 

4. Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange has constructed a business model that is strongly rooted in democratic standards that are people-centric. This manifests in its philosophy that the company should not expect any less from themselves than what the farmers are able to produce. Equal Exchange's mission is never to maximize profits—their ultimate goal is to offer guaranteed protection to their workers and join in partnership with them to make their work environment an equitable place. Ranging from Milk Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt to Panama Extra Dark Chocolate, their chocolates taste as sweet as their enthusiasm to impact the planet.

5. Theo Chocolate

The central concept that Theo Chocolate pursues is that "chocolate can be made in a way that allows everyone in the bean to bar process to thrive." The company seeks a common connection among every soul involved in its production, driving them to discover compassion and inspiration through the diverse people who pour their hearts into the making of Theo's responsibly-sourced chocolate. Over 5,500 cocoa farmers' lifestyles are supported through every purchase.

The opportunities that Theo opens for the farmers enable them to send their children to school, feed their families, and reciprocate generosity in their communities. Theo offers many eccentric specialty bars such as Pearl Jam: The Home Shows bar (dark chocolate), the Seattle bar (milk chocolate), and Salted Black Licorice

You may not be able to stop global labor exploitation by yourself. But through purchasing your favorite products with sustainability in mind (like saving people's livelihoods by eating chocolate? I mean, hello??), the power to leave your mark on the world can be found within the crack of a cocoa bean.