Updated: Dec 18, 2019
You can take the girl out of the chocolate, but you can't take the chocolate out of the girl. Since I closed nicobella organics, I've been on a search for the best dark chocolate that is vegan, ethical AND gives back, especially when gifting for the holidays. Below is what I've found, but first...
Why ethically sourced chocolate is important
70% of the world's chocolate is sourced from West Africa where child slavery and/or slavery is most prominent (much of it coming Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire). The Food Empowerment Project does not recommend any chocolate coming from West Africa since there is still slavery influence in West Africa and no guarantee that the cacao beans sourced from West Africa are indeed ethically sourced. Read more about slavery chocolate here. You can look for Fair Trade or Fair for Life certifications, however, there can be flaws in the certification process. Read more about the certifications here.
Know your source
When selecting chocolate, it's helpful to know the origin of the cacao beans. Choose chocolate from South and Central America, Dominican Republic, Tanzania or Madagascar (East Africa countries). Most bean-to-bar makers will list the origin and perhaps even the farmers who cultivate the beans and who are heavily involved (but often get overlooked) with creating the delicious flavors you experience in the finished product.
Here are my personal top picks for ethically sourced, vegan dark chocolate companies that not only make delicious chocolate, but also give back.
Values: I can say first hand that this is one of my favorite chocolate companies, not just because the chocolate is one of my favorites of all time, but also because it's family owned and their ethics are first-rate.
Veganism: All of their products are vegan! Even their Pumpkin Spiced "white chocolate" Bark is made with almond milk, plus delicious healing spices.
Giving Back: They work towards sustainable and equitable systems of consumption by sourcing ingredients responsibly and work directly with farmers in their processes, negotiating fair prices whenever possible.
Vegan Gifts: You can't go wrong with any of these beautiful and delicious gifts, but I just gifted someone this Dark Chocolate Decadence Box and I'm pretty confident they're going to love me forever based on their thank you note.
Discount Code: Free shipping on orders over $45!
Values: "We're dedicated to Direct Trade. This means we not only know the communities from which we source our cocoa beans, but more significantly, we can build long-term and mutually supportive relationships with these farmers who grow some of the world’s best cocoa." Their commitment includes:
Excellent Cocoa Beans
Open Books & Profit Sharing
Socially Sound Practices
Because they are Direct Trade, Askinosie pays the cocoa farmers significantly above the per-ton Fair Trade market price for their cocoa beans.
They also profit share with these farmers.
A Product of Change™, is a collaborative effort between Askinosie Chocolate, the administration and PTA of local schools, and you. When you purchase one of their Products of Change, you are providing a school lunch to hungry students in these communities.
Discount Code: Join their email list to receive 10% off your purchase. Free shipping over $50.
Values: Lending to its namesake, Equal Exchange is actually a co-op!
"Our co-op has over 120 worker-owners, each with an equal stake - and an equal vote - in our business. We believe that we should expect no less from ourselves and each other than we demand of our farmer partners. For that reason we have organized ourselves as a democratic worker co-operative."
Veganism: They are not 100% vegan, but offer several vegan options. Check the chocolate bar labels for dairy.
Giving Back: Equal Exchange has worked with small farmer organizations since 1986, beginning with a co-op in Nicaragua, and now sourcing from over 40 small farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States. Read more about how they're giving back to communities here.
Vegan Gifts: Their Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate 80% is one of my personal faves and makes a great stocking stuffer for only $3.50 a bar or $37.50 for a 12-pack. Other vegan bars include Organic Dark Chocolate Almond and Organic Dark Chocolate Mint. P.S. They also offer coffee, bananas, avocados and other "Fair Food."
Discount Code: Receive 10% off and free shipping when you sign up for their biweekly newsletter.
4. Alter Eco
Values: "For every chocolate gift you purchase, we'll plant a tree in our reforestation project in the Peruvian Amazon." Everyone on my list is getting an Alter Eco chocolate gift this season! If we all get at least one Alter Eco gift we could collectively plant hundreds of trees that will help the climate, wildlife and indigenous people. Who's in?
Plus, they get extra points for their compostable packaging.
Veganism: Unfortunately, they're not 100% vegan, but hoping they see the vegan/environment connection and start making their truffles with plant-based milk instead of cream.
Giving Back: Trees, Trees and more trees! Plus, they do give back to the environment by using compostable packaging and give back to farmers by sourcing directly from small-scale farmers.
Vegan Gifts: Be The Change Vegan Gift Box $24.99
Discount Code: They're offering 20% off holiday gifts sets (and planting a tree for each set purchased!). Also, receive 15% off when you sign up for their newsletter. Free shipping over $65.
Values: "We’ve given $1.4 million to support conservation efforts for endangered species and habitats. Our goal is to donate $1 million to conservation efforts through our GiveBack Partners." Meet their partners, including Rainforest Trust and Wildlife Conservation Net, here. They also empower their farmers and communities. Read more here.
Veganism: They're also not 100% vegan, but have lots of vegan options. Read the label to check for dairy or butter.
Giving Back: 10% of their net profits are donated annually to current 10% GiveBack Partners. Each is guaranteed a minimum annual donation of $10,000. "With over $1.4 million generated in the past three years alone, each chocolate purchase adds up to big support that helps wildlife thrive."
Vegan Gifts: They don't sell their bars online, but they're sold nationally in these stores. Yummy vegan flavors include Almonds Sea Salt + Dark Chocolate, Strong and Velvety Dark Chocolate and Tart Raspberries and Dark Chocolate.
Discount Code: Receive 15% off your purchase when you sign up for their newsletter. Also, look for sales at your local grocery stores!
Values: "It all started with a thumbnail image of a forlorn pitbull..." Read more about how Rescue chocolate donates to homeless pets and also advocates to help reduce homeless pet population by supporting spay and neuter programs, fostering and more.
Giving Back: Rescue Chocolate is “the sweetest way to save a life!” From each chocolate purchased, 100% of the net profits are donated to animal rescue organizations around the country. To see current and past beneficiaries visit here.
Vegan Gifts: Grab the 4 Paw Collection for $25 which includes Up and Up PBJ Pup, Peanut Butter Pit Bull, Foster-iffic Peppermint and Mission Feral Fig.
Discount Codes: Not seeing any on the website, but do you need a discount when 100% of proceeds are donated to animals?
7. Living Raw
Values: Living Raw practices sustainability by using organic, raw, non-gmo and Fair Trade ingredients, BPA free packaging and giving back to those who need a voice (see below!).
Veganism: 100% vegan, organic, non-gmo and raw! (And delicious—my own personal addiction and substitution for nicobella truffles.)
Giving Back: "We feel it a call to help the helpless and give a voice to those who don’t have one. Here at Living Raw, we support two Missions dear to our hearts: Matumaini’s Mission and Operation Underground Railroad." Read more here.
Vegan Gifts: Great stocking stuffers for the foodie or health nut. Choose anything since they're all vegan! Darkest Cacao Truffles are my fave.
Discount Codes: None that I see, but it's worth the full price!
Values: This Portland, OR brand sources locally, is 100% vegan, listed as fair trade, non-gmo, and practices sustainability with compostable packaging.
Veganism: 100% vegan!
Giving Back: While there is not a charity listed on their website, I felt they deserved to be in the ethically sourced, giving back category because they are 100% vegan which always gives back to the environment and animals, just by virtue of being vegan. Added plus is that their packaging is compostable.
Vegan Gifts: With a name like Buddha Chocolate you know they're a conscious brand. Check out their beautiful Ceremony Box $108 or more economical Buddha Gift Box where you can select your own chocolates for $32 (with flavors like matcha marigold, maca coconut, western red cedar and smoke and salt, you cannot go wrong!)
Discount Code: No discount code listed, but free shipping on ALL orders!
Values: Supernatural Chocolate (formerly The Great Unbaked) are all natural, raw, vegan and fair trade!
Veganism: 100% vegan deliciousness.
Giving Back: "All of our creations are made from the finest raw ingredients available and are acquired from fair trade suppliers and small farms. We use organic ingredients whenever possible and believe in supporting businesses that are also committed to making a difference in the lives of others. We work hard to be as eco-friendly as possible and have a great respect for our beautiful planet and its resources. Most of our packaging is recycled, recyclable and/or compostable. We are a work in progress and are striving to make all our packaging and inks eco-friendly and sustainable."
Vegan Gifts: I personally LOVE their Build Your Own 8-Piece Chocolate Truffle Box $21.99 (they come beautifully and sustainably packaged with a plantable notecard!), Dipped Marshmallows (yum!) $9.75 or Almond Lovers Gift Box $47.
Discount Code: I don't see any on the website but sign up for their newsletter, maybe you'll get something!
Values: This is another honorable mention just for being vegan. I don't see that they give back to charities, but by being vegan they give back to both the planet and animals. They also use organic and curate healing ingredients that gives back to YOU.
Veganism: Yay for 100% vegan!
Giving Back: They use probiotics, matcha tea, turmeric and chlorella in their blends. In my opinion, they're giving nutrition back to humans by using organic, high quality ingredients.
Discount Code: Free shipping on all orders over $34.
Let's exchange chocolate notes! Please let me know your fave vegan, ethically sourced chocolate brand that gives back.