The World Cocoa Foundation is offering a guide to the cocoa industry on sustainability principles that focus on equitable profit, labour standards and environmental issues.
The foundation said its principles and goals are designed to help cocoa farmers, guide industry efforts and prioritize its development projects in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Sustainability is high on the chocolate industry agenda. And in general, shareholders are increasingly looking for evidence that a food company has green projects ingrained in the management strategy, according to Nizo Food Research, which conducts R&D for food processors.
However, Nizo added that there is an increasing need for projects that build both sustainability and profitability for companies.
The foundation’s goals were developed over two years through discussions among foundation members, producing country governments, and program partners.
They are intended to help guide economic and social development as well as environmental stewardship in cocoa-growing communities around the world.
Bill Guyton, President, World Cocoa Foundation, said they will “ensure that our partnerships and programs are strategically focused and help drive positive change in cocoa-growing communities where it is most needed”.
The sustainability initiative commits the foundation and its members to working toward three categories; profit, people and planet.
For the people category, the aim is for healthy and thriving cocoa-farming communities, where international labour standards are followed and farming practices are safe.
The planet category refers to responsible, sound environmental stewardship in cocoa-farming communities where soil and water are conserved and Integrated Pest Management to limit the use of agricultural chemicals, protecting the fragile tropical ecosystem.
And in terms of profit, the aim is to improve equitable economic returns for farmers built upon expanding entrepreneurial skills, stronger and more effective farmer associations, and more productive, profitable farming practices.
Commenting on the foundation initiative, Sona Ebai, secretary general of the Cocoa Producers' Alliance, said” "It's critically important that the chocolate and cocoa industry share not only the good work it's doing to help cocoa farmers today, but to state what its sustainability objectives are over the longer term.”
Examples of companies that have introduced sustainability initiatives include Barry Callebaut’s tree-planting project for organic smallholders in Tanzania, with the exporter of certified organic cocoa Biolands.
Launched last year the project will see 250,000 cocoa seedlings being grown in over 100 tree nurseries in various villages of the Mbeya region.
By March the saplings will be planted out "in order to rejuvenate the existing cocoa plantations".
Patrick De Maeseneire, CEO of Barry Callebaut, said at the time: “Our efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility start at the very beginning of the value chain, namely with the cocoa growers, in order to find ways to achieve greater sustainability in the complex and fragmented chain that extends from cocoa cultivation to the end-product.”