Lindt & Sprüngli chocolates taste exquisitely, but more than that: the company itself maintains a refreshing level of transparency about its sustainability approach. The company website has a full section devoted to sustainability and ethics. The page is filled with information regarding their farming program, packaging, ingredients and more – and provides somewhat of an overwhelming amount of text. To me, it seems a little like they are attempting to bury the reader with evidence; when, in reality, they are repeating the same information in a variety of different ways. Not to say that they are unsustainable, but there is a degree of greenwashing that comes with burying a reader with repetitive information regarding sustainable practices. Overall, though, I reward Lindt & Sprüngli with 2 stars - primarily for their effort to combat the injustices that farmers face in the cocoa industry.
Lindt & Sprüngli use a variety of ingredients to make their chocolates. There are of course eggs, which have been sustainable (free from cage-free hens) since 2020. There is Soy Lecithin, which has been sustainably produced since 2018 (certificed by Pro Terra). And there are Hazelnuts, which have been sustainable since 2020 (according to the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program). Yet, as with any chocolate product, the main ingredient in Lindt & Sprüngli chocolates is cocoa. They use Forastero beans (consumer cocoa), exclusively from Ghana, and fine flavor cocoa from Latin America and Caribbean countries. Lindt & Sprüngli traces their ingredients back to their origin in order to identify the best ways of enabling local farmers and communities to improve their livelihoods. A crucial milestone for their sustainability efforts was reached in 2020: they achieved a 100% traceable and externally verified cocoa bean supply chain. They claim that for their key raw materials, and especially for cocoa beans, they make “special efforts to ensure a sustainable and socially responsible supply chain”. As such, their main commitment is that by 2025, 100% of cocoa products (beans, butter, powder, and, for Russell Stover manufactured-chocolate, chocolate) will be sourced through sustainability programs. As such, their goal is achievable – but perhaps not ambitious enough. Traceability is important, but strongly cultivating farmers and their rights is even more crucial.
Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate products are manufactured at 11 production facilities in Europe and the USA. The products are distributed through 28 subsidiary companies and branch offices, around 500 stores and a comprehensive network of more than 100 independent distributors around the globe in more than 120 countries worldwide. Thus, creating what is quite a global network that has the potential to be wasteful – yet their ‘bean to bar’ approach, including their farming program, appears to center around making all this supply chain work in a non-destructive way.
Lindt & Sprüngli has a farming program that allows them to trace their cocoa beans directly back to their origin, and thus support farmers and their communities based on their specific needs. They only select cocoa beans from countries and farmers which are part of their own sustainability program – the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. Their partners must sign on to their Supplier Code of Conduct to formalize their strict social and environmental standards. This level of traceability guarantees that the cocoa beans are always physically processed and transported separately from other beans and thus, can be traced back to their origin. The program is used to help farmers manage their farm in accordance with sound agricultural, social, ecological, and economic practices. It supports farmers in increasing their yields and income, shows them how land for agriculture can be safeguarded in the long-term, and fosters access to farming equipment and village infrastructure. The Program consists of different elements such as farmer trainings, investments in community infrastructure, and fostering income diversification that aims to increase the net income of farmers and their respective communities. The Program is funded with a special sustainability premium and additional funds from the Lindt Cocoa Foundation.
Lindt & Sprüngli also support respective governments’ efforts to contribute to improved livelihoods of cocoa farmers with the Living Income Differential (LID). Generally, they recognize the reality that millions of global farmers live in poverty, and hence, Lindt & Sprüngli achieved a 100% traceable and externally verified supply chain in 2020. The verification process happens through The Earthworm Foundation – which independently verifies their progress. The results of the external assessment are published on the Earthworm website. They also claim that for selected countries, they mandate “credible research organizations to survey the farmers and assess the impact of our Program on the farmers, their families and communities”. Yet, crucially, they do not specify which research organizations these are, and what selected countries they refer to. I found this specific line quite important: it was, well, a little suspicious. However, their effort in improving farmers’ lives and communities is admirable – and hence deserves recognition.
Lindt & Sprüngli is a company that appears to be highly transparent and works towards a sustainable future. They firmly seem to respect the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and have several sustainability memberships with international organizations such as the World Cocoa Foundation, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Earthworm Foundation, and the UN Global Compact. Their industry has been susceptible to unsustainable practices and exploitation: a fact that they are trying to remedy with their farming program. As well as that, Lindt has its very own foundation since 2013 - The Lindt Cocoa Foundation. This is made to work towards achieving social and ecological sustainability in the cultivation, production and processing of cocoa and other raw materials used in chocolate production. The Lindt Cocoa Foundation supplements the already existing endeavors of the Lindt & Sprüngli Group – such as improving the living and working conditions of farmers in the countries of origin of the raw materials. Its projects ensure that raw material procurement is done in a way which works more effectively towards sustainable agricultural development. Beyond this, Lindt & Sprüngli’s general ethics are not all that apparent – a fact that downgrades their overall image.