I source all ingredients from partners who share my beliefs in fair pay for producers and in sustainable agriculture.
Certifications like Fair Trade and Organic are helpful places to start, but I prefer a more human approach: working with ingredients from small-scale specialty producers whose stories are openly available and whose prices actually reflect the cost of production. Many such producers lack formal certifications and yet meet--and typically, exceed--certification standards.
That's because they follow new business models that abandon the commodity system, focusing on quality over quantity and setting prices based on true production costs, including labor. I favor supporting this kind of de-commoditized cacao and sugar production, even if it means that sometimes (expensive) formal certifications aren't available.
In place of certifications, suppliers in this "specialty" system typically offer transparent access to the stories and numbers behind agricultural production in the origins they represent. In addition, these suppliers are often materially involved in cacao production, purchasing cacao directly from farmers and performing or assisting with the critical fermentation and drying steps.
Starting in 2020, I began sourcing all ingredients from as close to home as possible to reduce supply chain miles and support the regional economy. For cacao and cane sugar, this means limiting sourcing to the Caribbean region. Other ingredients include sea salt harvested off the California coast, and coffee grown in Mexico and roasted here in Madison, WI.
William Marx, owner & chocolate maker, winnowing cracked cacao beans.
Creating environmentally responsible chocolate packaging is considered mandatory at Wm. Chocolate. I use the word "create" because unfortunately, the majority of existing chocolate packaging solutions were not designed with environmental concerns in mind. They use laminated plastics and foils that are great at protecting what's inside, but virtually impossible to recycle or compost. As a result, they end up in landfills. We must do better--and we can!
I require that my packaging has a reasonable end-of-life solution, uses a minimum of materials, and emphasizes renewable resources such as paper. I also strongly favor options produced as close to home as possible. We are in this together and I need your help:
-paper outer boxes should go into your recycle bin for paper products
-plastic inner wrappers should be shaken clean and recycled as plastic bags, sometimes called "thin films" (check local recycling guidelines for details)
-plastic pouches (e.g., for drinking chocolate) should also be shaken clean and recycled as plastic bags (please note that many food pouches are not recyclable because they are made of multiple materials glued together; mine can be recycled because they are made from a single type of plastic)
-shipping supplies should be recycled (e.g., boxes) or reused (e.g., ice packs)
If we come together on this, it is already 100% possible to enjoy chocolate without generating new landfill waste. And it will get easier and easier as recycling programs continue to expand and more materials designed with the earth in mind become available.
I use all-electric production equipment, powered by 100% renewable wind- and solar-derived electricity through MGE's Green Power Tomorrow (GPT) program.
Caring about the planet and its people should not stop at the chocolate bar. From using sustainable shipping materials to striving for energy-efficient production techniques, I am on an ongoing quest to lighten my chocolate's footprint. If you have questions or suggestions related to sustainability, please submit them via my contact page.