Eco-friendly and socially responsible "green" chocolate has been a niche product for several years. But now, some of the world's biggest chocolate manufacturers are entering the sustainable cocoa business.
A few products from big chocolate makers go "green"
The giant British chocolate maker Cadbury recently announced that one of its chocolate bars had received a stamp of approval from Fairtrade, an organization that promotes socially and environmentally responsible business practices.
In September, Cargill, a big U.S. agribusiness firm, said that two of its African cocoa suppliers received a similar endorsement.
Harold Poelma, manager of Cargill's cocoa business, says the two farmers' cooperatives in Ivory Coast met rigorous sustainability criteria spelled out in a code of conduct.
"The code of conduct really touches upon all of the elements which are important when you talk about sustainability," Poelma says. He adds, "So it's the economic factors, but it's also the social factors as well as the environmental factors."
The code of conduct was written by cocoa processors, non-governmental organizations, and the farmers themselves. An independent auditor certifies when producers have met the standards.
Declining crop output spurs training effort
Cargill trained the 1,500 members of the two Ivorian cooperatives to help them get certified. Poelma says the company was partly motivated by years of stagnant productivity and by the declining quality of the harvest in the world's largest cocoa-producing country. He says, "We saw that over time the growth of the crops would not keep pace with the growth of the demand."
So, he says, Cargill brought in experts to teach farmers best agricultural practices designed to boost production as well as protect the environment. Farmers also learned about safety practices including responsible use of chemicals. And child labor, an issue that has been problematic for the industry, was restricted.
Sustainable cocoa farming promises sweet success
Poelma says training has been a big investment for Cargill, but the company is seeing improvements in quality and quantity of cocoa from these farms. And he says, "So far, farmers are really excited because they do see how productivity has been going up."
The farms even look better, Poelma adds.
Cargill expects about 10,000 metric tons of cocoa from these cooperatives next year. That is a tiny fraction of the 3 million metric ton global cocoa crop but Poelma says, "It's a start."
He expects other companies and other cooperatives to come on board soon and raise the sustainability standard for the entire cocoa industry.
More info from the program auditor is available on Utz Certified.