Chocolatemakers continue to ignore emerging consumer concerns

cocoa-chocolate industry
  • With only 11% of firms able to trace source of their beans

Some chocolate manufacturers are reneging on commitment to address persisting child labour, poverty and deforestation confronting the cocoa-chocolate industry, says the latest Cholocate Scorecard report.

It said while some are rising to address key challenges in the cocoa-chocolate value chain, others continue to ignore consumer demand for chocolate that’s free of child labour, poverty and deforestation; and chocolate that is good for people and the planet.

The fourth edition of the Chocolate Scorecard surveyed the world’s biggest chocolate companies to find out how they are addressing key challenges in the cocoa-chocolate value chain.

This year’s scorecard ranked 83 of the largest chocolate companies (brands), retailers and processes on their performance in six sustainability categories: namely traceability; transparency; child labour; living income; deforestation and climate; agroforestry; and chemical management.

On sustainability, the survey found that the claims of chocolate companies cannot necessarily be trusted. “Sustainability claims made by companies are defined narrowly to refer only to their programmes, which may foster sustainable practices but do not refer to the actual status of their cocoa or necessarily improve the actual living conditions of cocoa farmers”.

It reported that farmers taking part in sustainability programmes are often not well compensated for their efforts, and remain extremely poor.

It was also found that only 11 percent of chocolate companies surveyed can fully trace the source of their cocoa beans.

Furthermore, it revealed that, on average, 40 percent of cocoa is purchased indirectly; meaning the buyer does not know who they bought from or where it came from.

However, the study said: “Without knowing where the cocoa beans come from, you cannot possibly claim it is sustainable”.

The report stated that farmers need to be paid more for their cocoa to ensure a sustainable life. “The account of poverty in cocoa-growing communities, especially in West Africa, has been articulated extensively. Its connection to child labour, forced labour and human trafficking as well as the deforestation of national forests is indisputable”.

This is cited a recent report by Oxfam which claims that the “net income of farmers decreased by an estimated 16.38 percent between the 2019/20 and 2021/22 harvesting seasons”.

It was asserted that when the price of cocoa increases everything else a farmer purchases increases in price, leaving them worse-off in reality. However, this does not affect chocolate companies in the same way but rather results in an increase of their profits.

Meanwhile, the global chocolate market was valued at US$131.9billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at 4.50 percent annually.

The latest Chocolate Scorecard also indicated that about 1.5 million children work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, with 95 percent of them exposed to the worst forms of child labour. But, the findings from the survey said, significant progress is being made by companies in their efforts to address this.

On deforestation, out of the 53 companies that responded it was reported that 48 of them have a ‘no-deforestation’ policy in place. Because of these developments, it is expected that consumers and investors would need to know where their chocolate comes from and what they invest in; making this scorecard an important tool to reform practices in the sector.

“We also need companies and licenced buying companies (LBCs) sourcing the cocoa in Ghana to pay greater attention to the problems outlined in these categories, and advise corporate plans and strategies to combat deforestation. As frontline agents in addressing deforestation and improving income, much more is expected of LBCs to escape poverty, reduce deforestation and end all forms of child labour,” the report stated.

The 2023 Chocolate Scorecard ranked Original Beans as the most sustainable chocolate company, followed by Tony’s ChocoLonely and Beyond Good.

The report was led by three research institutions – Macquire University Sydney, The Open University-UK and the University of Wollongong – and coordinated by Be Slavery Free, Australia.

It was also supported by a global coalition of NGOs including Green America, INKOTA, Mighty Earth, EcoCare Ghana and the National Wildlife Federation.

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