Finnish company Fazer has set a target to certify its entire cocoa supply by 2017 to ensure its cocoa comes from traceable sources and is free from the worst forms of child labour.
The company has committed to raising the amount of responsibly produced cocoa by 10-15% each year. Of the 7,000 tonnes of cocoa the company uses annually, 30% is currently certified through schemes such as UTZ.
Issue gains traction
Tom Lindblad, managing director of Fazer Confectionery, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “Discussion about responsible purchasing is growing.”
The European Parliament recently consented to the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement and passed a resolution on child labour in the cocoa sector calling on stakeholders to collaborate towards a sustainable cocoa supply chain free from child labour.
Major confectioners including Ferrero and Mars recently set a target to source 100% sustainable by 2020. However, other major players, such as Kraft/Cadbury and Hershey have yet to commit to a date.
Linblad said Fazer’s commitment came as consumers were increasingly concerned about ethical issues when making product choices.
The 2001 Harkin Engel Protocol called on the industry to move towards certification to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2005. The target was later revised to a 70% reduction.
Fazer first sourced certified cocoa from UTZ in 2010.
Asked if Fazer’s commitment to go 100% certified had come seven years too late, Fazer’s cocoa and chocolate quality expert Majlen Fazer said: “Can you give me an example of a company who made a commitment in 2001?”
Indeed, no confectioner using large volumes made a commitment until recently.
Asked why it had taken so long, Fazer said: “It is very difficult in these countries [Ivory Coast, Ghana]. Everything does not go at once. A big part of it is work with the government.”
Political instability and poverty in cocoa growing regions is often cited as a barrier to sustainable sourcing and organisations such as the European Cocoa Association (ECA) believe all the stakeholders including from the industry civil society and governments have a part to play.
Fazer said that her company was taking part in discussions to develop a common EU standard for responsible cocoa sourcing.
She expects an agreement to be reached in around three years, but said it would not necessarily mean 100% of the cocoa coming to Europe would be required to be certified by this time.
The next standardisation meeting is in May in Brussels.
Linblad said Fazer was considering whether cocoa certification would be communicated on its product labels.
“If you produce only one certificate it would be easier,” he added.
Fazer uses multiple certification schemes, including UTZ and Source Trust, and sources 25% of its cocoa from Ecuador and cocoa butter from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria.
The firm is a private family company and is not compelled to communicate its progress towards its targets, but Linblad said the company would be transparent in its Annual Review.
Improving livelihoods in face of a shortage
Fazer has been funding a remote school in Ivory Coast since 2007, in a scheme that has seen 560 young people trained on cocoa farming and 55 new cocoa farms. It is also funding the establishment of a new school in the area.
Prof David Guest from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney recently warned that chocolate manufacturers would face a serious cocoa supply shortage unless they worked to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and allow them to invest in sustainable production.