Although choco pies are a delicious treat, some of the ingredients it contains are very unsustainable and are related to large amounts of environmental degradation. The factories have information about locations, contact info, and codes of conduct but not much about working conditions for the workers. Lotte has taken steps toward being a more environmentally friendly company, but the award they received did not have any concrete performance standards.
The main ingredients that I will focus on are beef gelatin and high fructose corn syrup. Although beef gelatin is healthy, the environmental destruction is high. Land usage for pasture, grain, waste, and feed causes species extinction, runoff into soil and water, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. Many cows are also killed, which is nonvegan and requires copious amounts of water to sustain. Corn is often grown in monocultures, which depletes soil nutrients, requires more pesticides, and decimates the topsoil. Huge dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico are created from excessive fertilizer use in farms along the Mississippi river. Additionally, consuming high amounts of corn syrup has been linked to type 2 diabetes. Choco pies also have hydrogenated palm oil. Hydrogenation turns liquid fat into a solid or semisolid. This is done to save money, extend shelf life, add texture and increase stability. However, it comes at a significant health cost. Hydrogenated oils lower good cholesterol (HDL) and increase bad cholesterol (LDL).
In order to reduce costs, Lotte opened many factories in India. This reduced shipping costs and created a larger market in India. However, the working conditions in Indian factories are subpar. The work schedule is Monday-Saturday from 10am-6pm where overtime is normal and not compensated. Acquiring the beef gelatin requires meat processing. The workers associated with meat processing have some of the highest rates of occupational injury and illness, the plants are extremely dirty and dangerous. Fast work is pushed upon the workers which leads to stress, more injuries and lower quality work. Quite often, palm oil plantations are associated with deforestation and environmental degradation. However, Lotte is RSPO certified, which means the palm oil plantations behave ethically, respect worker’s rights, as well as protecting, conserving and enhancing ecosystems and the environment. RSPO certified palm oil has 35% lower global warming impact and 20% lower biodiversity impact from land changes. Although RSPO makes Lotte’s palm oil seem benign, palm oil is still environmentally destructive. The best case scenario would be 0 palm oil, but Lotte is making progress
Lotte was the first retail store to get an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certification, which is an international framework for environmental management. Although it sounds great, not all objectives are measurable. There aren’t any set in stone guidelines (i.e. reduce CO2 emissions by 10%, reduce waste by 10 tons, etc.). Lotte has an ecoshop where all the money goes towards an environmental fund. They also have eco leaflets, which are electronic leaflets in order to reduce paper consumption. Lotte is quite transparent about their factory locations in Korea as well as India. However, the working conditions and wages for the Indian factories are not specified anywhere. This along with the fact that many factories in India are notorious for their abysmal working conditions and pay leads me to believe that the Lotte factories in India are not sustainable.