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Wake us up before you cocoa

Our cocoa butter is now 100% traceable, so you know with confidence that every bean that goes into our products is sustainably sourced from growers that receive a fair price for their bountiful crops.

Connect the dots. It’s a simple game; you trace a line between scattered dots until you can step back, admire your handiwork and view the bigger picture. For the past five years, we’ve been focused on our own global connect the dots style mission.

The aim?

To guarantee that we could trace each and every cocoa bean we use in our products to its source, that those sources were benefiting from their relationship with us and that our products were as brilliantly effective as they were before.

The stakes were high. Cocoa beans are a market commodity. They are a raw product with a considerably long gestation period (it takes three years for a cocoa bush to become productive). Global climactic shifts mean that cocoa crops are susceptible to temperature change, rainfall and the health of common pollinator species. They are also in high demand with every country in the world utilising the bean in one form or another. This combination puts extortionate pressure on cocoa suppliers with the value of crops fluctuating dramatically between crop yields.

As a result, whole communities - many situated along the Western African coast in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire - are forced into accepting below-poverty wages. In many, indentured and child labour is rife. Groups including The International Labour Organisation and The International Labour Rights Forum brought this murky underside of global cocoa production to light, highlighting the perpetuation of hazardous working conditions, lack of adequate education and links to trafficking and debt bondage.

It's a sombre reality we're not willing to accept. ‘If we’re not 100% sure where it comes from, that’s not good enough!’ says Gabbi Loedolff from our ethical buying team. We never had an alarm bell moment. Instead, we’ve been encouraging and investing in small communities for years, imparting our specialist knowledge of permaculture so they can supply our demand for cocoa whilst simultaneously cultivating their own crops.

A cocoa grower sorting beans
Peace community harvesting

Three sources make up the 200,000 kilos we use every year in the UK. Two of these are sourced from The Organic Growers Dominican Foundation (FUNDOPO) in the Dominican Republic. This umbrella organisation works with approximately 1,500 farmers, each growing cocoa on land averaging in size from 1.5-2 hectares, to ensure they get a fair price for the cocoa the top-quality cocoa they produce.

The Communidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó in north-west Colombia is our third supplier. The group of roughly 2,100 farmers pledge themselves to non-violence in an area ravaged by the army, leftist guerrilla fighters and right-wing paramilitary groups. When we heard their story we knew we had to help, but our cocoa supply from the Peace Community arose through serendipity. It was by chance that we found they could help us too.

Working with these dedicated communities has been a fantastic learning curve for Lush. We’ve visited the farmers and learnt more about international relationships, accommodating the flexibility required by small-scale suppliers and the challenges they face.

Together, we’ve got big plans for the future. Our inventing team have reformulated all our cocoa butter products with the new beautifully unfragranced supply. This huge, effects-led innovation means our products, including our fully-traceable massage bar range, are even more beneficial to the skin.

We’re also rebuilding communities using techniques honed by our permaculture specialist and ethical buyer, Simon Constantine. Concepts such as using mycelium – a fungal species – to regenerate the soil can have a dramatic effect on the livelihood of cocoa communities and in turn nurture their long-term wellbeing.

Thank you for joining us on the journey so far. Reaching 100% traceable status for cocoa is a major milestone, but we're not done yet...

We're full of beans about our 100% traceable cocoa butter and we hope you are too

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