Sustainable cocoa production and standards were the focus of the first meeting of a working group for the Roundtable on a Sustainable Cocoa Economy (RSCE), organised last month by the International Cocoa Organisation.
Sustainability in the cocoa industry is a major issue worldwide for everyone involved from cocoa farmers to chocolate manufacturers.
A round table meeting to discuss sustainability that took place in Accra, Ghana, last year brought together over 200 participants from 25 countries. Representatives from European confectionery firms were joined by cocoa farmers, cooperatives, traders, exporters, financial institutions and government and non-government organisations.
The success of this meeting prompted the ICCO Council to agree the formation of the working group to help maintain the momentum and plan ahead for the next RSCE.
Sustainability is a major concern for western confectioners under pressure from high commodity costs. Protecting the supply is vital to maintaining margins.
Round table meetings
At the Accra meeting an exchange of ideas in plenary sessions led to consensus on what has become known as the Accra Agenda, which covers a large number of priority areas for action in relation to sustainability, such as sustainable production, commercialisation and processing.
A second round table table will continue the dialogue coming out of Accra and consider the ways and means to enhance sustainability in the cocoa sector worldwide, the ICCO claims.
The principals underlying the Accra Agenda will be identified, with particular reference to the 'three pillars of sustainable development' - environmental, economic and social.
Members of the ICCO working group, which is preparing for the second meeting, have suggested that minimum standards or criteria to promote sustainability could be developed. They recognise that formulating principals and standards for sustainable cocoa would be a major challenge but previous studies could provide guidance.
It is intended that development of the standards for sustainable cocoa will start through a process of consultations via meetings and through the web.
Members of the working group intend to produce papers on sustainability and certification initiatives; best practices in the cocoa value chain; the concept of traceability and tracking; social issues on labour and a draft outline of principals.
It is hoped that these round table meetings, known as Roundtables for Sustainable Cocoa Economy (RSCE), will be a platform for initiatives promoting sustainability in the cocoa industry.
A RSCE website is being created to publicise information as widely as possible and to enable interactive communication with stake holders.
Further details of the second RSCE meeting are not yet available.
Industry sustainability initiatives
Some of the major confectioners such as Cadbury have launched their own sustainability programmes. At the end of January 2008 Cadbury launched a fund to aid its cocoa suppliers in Ghana, after research suggested that average production in the region is now 40 per cent lower than potential yield.