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Ethical brand ratings and accreditation since 2001

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Does Thorntons make ethical and sustainable chocolate? 

Thorntons is a Nestlé chocolate brand that is listed in The Good Shopping Guide‘s Ethical Chocolate Ratings Table. Although Thorntons is yet to meet our ethical standards, we expect the brand to improve in the future. There are a number of different attributes that a brand must comply with in order for us to grant Ethical Accreditation and excels in some of them.

However, there is still significant room for improvement. For example, there are no Fairtrade chocolate options supplied by Thorntons. The importance of ethically sourced ingredients is indisputable now more than ever. Using Fairtrade products ensures that everyone involved in the manufacturing process from start to finish gets a fair wage for their work. Thorntons (as well as many brands Nestlé owns) does not carry any Fairtrade products. We would have extra confidence in this brand if it submitted itself to apply for Ethical Accreditation, whereby The Good Shopping Guide would be able to make a further detailed assessment and provide recommendations for ethical and sustainable improvement.

We acknowledge that there is a lot of room for improvement by this brand, but we are confident that this brand can become Ethically Accredited in the future. Find out more about the ethical issues faced by the Ethical Chocolate Brands sector and see how other brands score in our Ethical Chocolate Ratings Tables.

What does Thorntons do and what is its history?

In 1911, Joseph Thornton, a traveling confectioner, opened a sweet shop in Sheffield, which he entrusted to his son, Norman. Norman brought his brother, Stanley, on board after initially selling sweet treats such as Violet Cachous and Sweet Lips. The brothers did not begin making their own hand-made truffles and fondants until the 1920s… this is when Thorntons’ true craftsmanship began. Thorntons’ confectionery creations were soon produced in a purpose-built factory. As the company grew in size and popularity, production was relocated to Derbyshire, just down the road from where it is now and has remained there for nearly 40 years. Thorntons joined the Ferrero Group in 2015. This resulted in the reinvention and rerelease of some of Thorntons’ most popular chocolates, as well as the introduction of some new creations.

For which criteria does Thorntons perform poorly? 

Despite Thorntons ranking highly in many categories there are still some issues yet to be dealt with by the company. These are the availability of Organic products, Public Record Criticisms, and the availability of Fairtrade products. Despite having an extensive range of chocolate food and drink products, none of them are certified-Organic or Fairtrade. A consumer watchdog has filed a complaint against Nestlé and Ferrero in relation to recent E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks involving the companies.

Foodwatch France listed seven crimes in the lawsuit, including putting potentially unsafe food on the market, failing to follow procedures to remove or recall such a product, risking the lives of others, and exporting food to a non-EU nation. Included in the two complaints is the story of 6-year-old Louna, who had Salmonella after eating Kinder chocolate and ended up in the hospital. Numerous countries have been affected by the pandemic. The incident is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office. At least 324 persons in 16 countries have been impacted by the salmonella Typhimurium chocolate outbreak caused by Ferrero monophasic. The Arlon facility’s output was halted by Belgian authorities in April, and the Luxembourg Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation.

In what areas does Thorntons score well for its ethics?

Thorntons scores above our benchmark in vital research categories such as having Vegetarian and Vegan options, an Environmental Report, no found use of Nuclear power, good Animal Welfare, and no record of investing in Armaments. Thorntons’ inclusion of Vegetarian and Vegan dietary options is undeniably encouraging. By offering such options, it is becoming more environmentally sustainable by relying less on dairy farms for its ingredients. Veganism is becoming ever more popular, and Thorntons’ compliance with this dietary trend demonstrates that the company is listening to consumer needs. There is no negative record of Thorntons profiting from Nuclear power. There is also no negative record of any association with genetically modifies crops or accepting/ contributing to political donations.

More information about Thorntons…

To see how Thorntons ranks against other chocolate brands, see our Ethical Chocolate Ratings Tables. If you own or work for a chocolate brand, why not see how your brand ranks? You can submit a brand, product, or company for assessment and Ethical Accreditation by filling out this short form.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Genetic Modification


  • Organic


  • Nuclear Power



  • Animal Welfare


  • Vegetarian/Vegan



  • Armaments


  • Political Donations


  • Fairtrade



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Public Record Criticisms


  • Public Record Criticisms+


= GSG Top Rating = GSG Middle Rating = GSG Bottom Rating