Despite decades of commitments from companies and governments, cocoa production still entails considerable social and environmental harm around the world, but robust certification systems have the potential to help companies source more sustainable cocoa.
This week, Fairtrade announced its updated Cocoa Standard ahead of upcoming sustainability and due diligence legislation. The reinforced focus on human rights, traceability and transparency, and deforestation will likely have a positive impact on the sector. Nevertheless, companies should not rely solely on certification to address supply chain risks.
New program to reduce child and forced labor
Among the latest changes, which will take effect over the next two years, is a renewed focus on the prevention of child labor and forced labor. The updated Standard calls on producer organizations to improve on the implementation of monitoring and remediation systems and on commercial actors to enhance their support of producer organizations in this area.
Fairtrade will also create its own program. Sam Dormer, Fairtrade Foundation’s Global Product Manager for Cocoa, writes:
During the consultation process many stakeholders made clear the need for further support for producer organizations on human rights issues. That is why Fairtrade is also announcing the creation of Fairtrade’s Programme for Child Labour and Forced Labour Prevention and Remediation. The programme will provide contributions to Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa producer organizations implementing quality prevention and remediation interventions that are now required in the Cocoa Standard.
The program will be launched with €450,000 of Fairtrade funding and could be scaled up with financial support from companies and other actors.
Move toward first-mile traceability
The updated Standard also has the potential to increase traceability across the sector, which is essential for companies to be able to truly assess and address the risks of human rights violations and environmental harm in their cocoa supply chains.
The updates will require producers to use product tracing and documentation systems that enable first-mile traceability. Organizations will then be able to map members’ farms and record the cocoa they buy from each farm.
Certification is not a silver bullet
Freedom United welcomes Fairtrade’s updated Cocoa Standard as a positive step forward for the cocoa sector, recognizing that certifications play an important role in increasing value chain transparency and in support for farmer organizations, among other benefits.
However, we should not confuse certified cocoa with sustainable cocoa or assume that certification alone solves the multiple endemic problems in cocoa supply chains.
Indeed, as the 2022 Cocoa Barometer states: “Even though at least a third, perhaps even more than half, of all the global cocoa production is grown under a certification label or an own company sustainability label, major problems persist.”
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Almost 180,000 people in the Freedom United community are calling on chocolate companies to do better. They should go beyond certification, taking responsibility for the adverse impacts the production of their key ingredient has on communities and the planet.
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