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2020 sustainable cocoa targets ‘a tall order’ – Intertek

By Oliver Nieburg+

28-Mar-2014
Last updated on 28-Mar-2014 at 14:13 GMT

Are 2020 sustainable cocoa targets achievable or unrealistic?
Are 2020 sustainable cocoa targets achievable or unrealistic?

Chocolate makers may struggle to guarantee their entire cocoa supply comes from a sustainable source by 2020 targets, according to auditing service Intertek.

The firm said chocolate manufacturers could better guarantee a quality cocoa supply through their own audited sustainable cocoa programs rather than purchasing third party certified cocoa from bodies like Fairtrade.

 ‘A lofty target’

Major chocolate firms such as Ferrero , Mars and Hershey have committed to purchasing only third party certified cocoa from organizations such as UTZ Certified, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade by 2020.

Others such as Nestlé and Mondelēz International are using some certification but have developed proprietary sustainable cocoa programs.

Bill Rafferty, director of global development and sales for Intertek’s Food and Agricultural Service, told ConfectioneryNews that a 2020 deadline was a tough proposition.

“That’s a lofty target. There are firms that have backed away from that because what you might find is that some of the cocoa won’t be fully sustainable,” he said.

“There are hundreds of thousands of farmer and lots with small farms. This takes time and many have not even been through any training or audits yet.”

“People have the best intentions. I’m not saying some won’t be able to do it – It’s just a tall order. I think you need to stretch it out a few more years – 2024-2025.”

Setting a deadline

Intertek said that companies with their own programs must set a deadline for their entire cocoa supply to come from sustainable sources, “You absolutely have to because the consumer will demand it. The pressure is there and they are not off the hook," said Interek's Bill Rafferty.

Own programs for quality control

According to Rafferty, companies developing their own sustainable cocoa programs had greater control over their supply chains and ensured higher quality cocoa than those who purchased certified cocoa.

Intertek offers an auditing service for companies’ own sustainable cocoa program. It invites manufacturers to develop an audit checklist, with or without Intertek’s help, then conduct yearly audits on farms to ensure farmers supplying the company meet the agreed criteria.

The company also offers GPS soil mapping as well as plant and water analysis to increase yields per hectare while reducing inputs.

Greenwashing?

NGO STOP THE TRAFFIK recently criticized Mondelēz’s own sustainable cocoa program and accused it of attempting to self-regulate child trafficking in the cocoa sector. We asked Rafferty if a chocolate firm designing its own audit checklist as part of a company sustainable cocoa program could be accused of greenwashing.

“Not necessarily,” he said. “Because it is based on existing certification programs.”

He said that the checklists were usually based on requirements coming from retailers, so practically mirrored the standards of certification program like Fairtrade. “It’s not like they’ve branched out and done something on their own,” he said.

Where’s the logo?

Companies sourcing cocoa on Fairtrade or UTZ Certified terms can carry a certification logo on brands, whereas products made from cocoa sourced through a company’s own program typically carry no mark.

Fairtrade CEO Harriet Lamb recently said that the Fairtrade mark brought an independence that the public trusted.

“The public absolutely trust the sweet manufacturers to deliver great products; they just don’t know how they work with the farmers,” she said.

But Natalie Smith, global marketing manager of Food Services for Intertek, said: “A mark doesn’t’ mean it’s better or worse. It’s just the value placed behind it.”

She said there was nothing to stop a company running its own mark on products, which could also become trusted as consumers became more educated.

Are audited own programs cheaper?

Smith warned that companies’ own program would not necessarily save them money.

Rafferty added: “They are still going to pay premiums for the beans.”

Fairtrade guarantees a $2,000 per MT minimum price and a $200 premium for farmers, while UTZ teaches farmers business skills to negotiate a fair price. The average UTZ cocoa premium was €112 ($154) per MT in 2012.  Intertek did not specify an average premium for beans sourced through its service.

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