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Brightening Up Chocolate’s Dark Side

Joe Whinney and Theo Chocolate factory --photo: Tom Paulson

Welcome to the Humanosphere podcast, our weekly look back at the world of global health and development. This week we discuss the Obama administration’s new foreign budget proposal, plus Madonna’s celebrity philanthropy gone awry in Malawi.

But our focus is on the delicious dark sweetness we call chocolate – how’s it made, who makes it, where it comes from, and the ethics or lack thereof behind it.

Joe Whinney, founder and President of Seattle’s own Theo Chocolate, gave us the lowdown. Whinney is an industry veteran who bore witness to the extreme poverty and abusive business practices suffered by cocoa farmers in the Global South. In 2006, Whinney founded his own chocolate company with a commitment, he says, to organic and fair trade chocolate that equitably compensates farmers and their families.

We had some questions: Are corporate social responsibility programs actually accomplishing any good? What does “fair trade” certification really mean? What about labor practices in Theo’s Seattle factory? How can consumers drive ethical business practices? And what does the future of chocolate look like?

Whinney doesn’t mince words. Listen to find out.

Produced by Ansel Herz.


About Author

Ansel Herz

Ansel Herz is a freelance multimedia journalist whose objective is to “go to where the silence is." His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera English, Free Speech Radio News, Inter-Press News and many other publications. A Seattle native and survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ansel is producer of Humanosphere's podcast, among other things. You can contact him at ansel.herz[at] or follow him on Twitter @Ansel.