Don’t buy unethically sourced chocolate

Chen-Pang Chang

Indonesia has lost 72 percent of its intact forests — equivalent to an area twice the size of Germany — in the last 50 years. Much of the land has been turned into palm oil plantations.

More than 100 companies that use palm oil in their products have promised to purchase from certified suppliers. Just one year ago, however, Nestlé, Mars and Hershey were accused of breaking their commitment to stay away from illegal Indonesian palm oil. 

Today, their products, such as Kit-Kats, Snickers and M&M’s, remain at UT and can be found in vending machines across campus. Despite being environmental offenders, their products remain in high demand. We need to stop buying these unethically-sourced chocolate bars before further harm to the environment takes place.

Most chocolate bars require palm oil, a kind of vegetable oil, to ensure they don’t melt. Palm oil is the cheapest and most-produced vegetable oil. However, 300 soccer fields of rainforest are wiped out every hour, making the environmental costs of growing oil palm trees staggering.

Orangutans are one of many species facing critical endangerment as a result of these practices. Their homes are being torn down by bulldozers. Many of them have been killed or captured. Senselessly harming animals cannot be part of sustainable or responsible palm oil production.

Humans, too, have been impacted by palm oil production. In Colombia, the fourth-largest palm oil producer in the world, the government insists that its palm oil is sustainable and different from that of Indonesia. 

However, according to a Washington Post report, Columbia allowed multinational corporations, such as Poligrow, to systematically evict indigenous people, small farmers, and other local residents to turn their homes into palm oil plantations.

Canteen Vending is one of the three vending contractors with UT. They provide vending machines that sell snacks, including Kit-Kats, Snickers and M&M’s. 

Olga Finneran, communications manager for Financial and Administrative Services, said in an email that “Canteen Vending is currently operating within the confines of its respective contract as outlined by the University.”

However, demanding that Canteen stop providing the snacks would prove difficult. We, as consumers, can make sure that these snacks and unethical candy companies have no place at UT by urging friends and family to take a firm stand.

There remain plenty of choices for chocolate lovers. Greenpeace published an investigation a week ago that shows which chocolate brands still have links with unsustainable palm oil suppliers. By being environmentally conscious consumers, we can enjoy chocolate without worrying about its hidden social costs.

Currently, 71 percent of palm oil is used in chocolate products and processed food. It is tempting to have a chocolate bar. Its inviting smell and sweet taste win countless consumers over. UT vending machines will keep providing these unethically-sourced chocolate bars, but we can stop purchasing them. We can show that chocolate bars whose production harms the environment are not welcome on our campus.

Chang is a philosophy junior from New Taipei, Taiwan