Responsible and Sustainable Cocoa

The chocolate and cocoa industries have been working for many years with farmers to improve their standard of living through a sustainable cocoa economy. ECA regularly contributes to discussions related to good agricultural practices and cocoa quality, as well as labour-related matters in cocoa farming.

GAPs and quality

The results of the research programmes conducted by ECA and its partners are translated into recommendations for growers. These are also shared with a number of other stakeholders with the aim to foster ever better agricultural practices.

Farmers who apply recommendations stand to lose less of their crops to diseases, which in turn can translate into improved yields and therefore higher income.

Ongoing projects that address cocoa farming in a holistic manner, such as those of the WCF (World Cocoa Foundation) tend to show that higher income may also foster changes, e.g. as relates to farmers’ ability to better respond to their children’s educational and health needs.

Joint Research Fund

A sustainable cocoa supply chain calls for high standards of quality and productivity whereby cocoa is safe for consumer consumption, complies with manufacturers’ quality requirements, and meets the growing global demand.

The European Cocoa Association (ECA), CAOBISCO,  and the Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC) are committed to working towards more sustainable cocoa which complies with such requirements for consumer, manufacturer and farmer benefit.

As the overall productivity for cocoa has not changed significantly in decades (current average cocoa yields are around 400kg/ha), the rehabilitation of existing cocoa producing land (by using improved planting material), the use of fertilisers and the management of cocoa pests and diseases are considered key priorities. Over the last few years, ECA, CAOBISCO, and FCC have successfully worked on defining Good Agricultural Practices for food safety in cocoa.

Given deteriorating yields and quality levels in several countries, the growing consumer interest in cocoa sustainability, and closer links with producing countries, the review of sustainable industry needs in terms of quality and productivity is a key priority.

In 2013, the three associations joined forces by setting up a Joint Research Fund. The Fund is currently administered by ECA. On average, three projects (that typically run over a two to five year timespan) are administered through the Fund at the same time.

Current and past projects include:

-          Cocoa Bean Quality Requirements Guide (available here in English, French and Spanish) - completed

-          Research on occurrence and mitigation of cadmium in cocoa - underway

-          Detection of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) - underway

As a value chain approach is crucial to tackling quality and productivity issues, the joint WG regularly exchanges information and cooperates directly with cocoa producing countries governments, research institutes, the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and the European Institutions.

Labour Practices

The chocolate and cocoa industries pride themselves in their consistent socially responsible attitude. They are working together with other stakeholders to promote responsible cocoa growing and towards eliminating abusive labour practices in the growing and processing of cocoa.

The issue is not an easy one. Cocoa is grown in tropical climates, and over 60% originates from West Africa, planted by over a million smallholders often in remote areas. The domestic chain from planter to export company is a complex one, involving a series of intermediaries (e.g. in Côte d'Ivoire: cooperatives, pisteurs, traitants, etc.). In addition, abusive labour practices are more likely to develop in poverty-stricken rural communities.

Today, labour practices are dealt with by the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), a Foundation operating under Swiss law. The ICI is a product of active co-operation between the global chocolate industry, concerned politicians, the labour movement, consumers groups and activists in child and forced labour. Its mission is “to oversee and sustain efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and forced labour in the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derivative products”.

The ICI is guided by international conventions, in particular the ILO Convention 182 on “The Worst Forms of Child Labour” and the ILO Convention 29 on “Forced Labour.” The collaborative nature of the foundation is reflected in the composition of its board which includes an equal number of industry and non-industry representatives. 

ECA and its membership contribute on a regular basis to initiatives destined to foster positive change in cocoa growing communities.