B Corps are “for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency,” according to the certify agency’s website.
There are currently 2,003 B Corps across 50 countries in the world, with combined revenues of over $34bn. Other chocolate companies that are also certified by B Corps include Nashua, Rescue Chocolate, Sweetriot, Pacari Chocolate, Tony’s Chocolonely and Alter Eco.
A step forward from Fairtrade International and Rainforest Alliance?
Well established certifications for chocolate products, such as Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ, have become a shorthand for consumers to assure the income for farmers, and the quality of the ingredients, Divine said, even though ConfectioneryNews found that very few consumers could actually tell the difference between sustainability labels .
“But what about the companies those products come from?” Divine asked.
“B Corps was set up in 2006 in the US to address this: A framework both to help consumers compare the social, environmental and economic practices of companies big and small, and also guide the companies themselves to target improvements in all areas,” the chocolate firm said.
Divine’s CEO Sophi Tranchell said becuase Divine is 100% Fairtrade, and has a farmer-ownership business model it earns a high B Corps score to be certified.
Divine has partnered with gourmet popcorn brand Joe & Seph's to launch a Fairtrade chocolate popcorn Easter egg in the UK. The product is currently sold at Waitrose with a suggested retail price of £11.00 ($13.25), and will also be available through wholesalers and independent stores.
In addition, Divine will also launch a milk white chocolate Shaun the Sheep lolly for Easter 2017 in partnership with Aardman Animations. The product has a recommended retail price of £1.50 ($1.81).
“The minimum rating across all areas, including environment, workers, community and governance is 80, and Divine scores 103,” she said.
“Ultimately cocoa sustainability will not only be down to adhering to the standards set by certifications such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, but to a more general commitment to trading and business practices which benefit farmers more,” Tranchell added.
A shift in the other direction from Mondelēz
Cadbury maker recently dropped the Fairtrade International logo on the front of pack to focus on its own sustainability program, Cocoa Life.
In a statement, Divine said now consumers no longer have an independent assurance of what company-own programs deliver to cocoa farmers, just as they have little way of judging how the rest of the company operates and whether it is better than other chocolate companies.
“Divine wants to see, and be a leading part of, a shift in the other direction: Where companies are more accountable, where the interests of people and planet are equal to if not greater than corporate interest,” the company added.
Asked if getting B Corps certification might give small to medium sized chocolate companies an opportunity to compete with major players in the market, Tranchell said they could certainly take the lead and promote what that means.
“It will go down well with consumers, such as Millennials, who are conscientious about the purchases they choose.”
Industry worries more consumer confusion from B Corps
Marc Donaldson, senior Partner at On The Ball Consulting - who previously contended consumers falsely link cocoa sustainability to chocolate quality - is concerned that B Corps might be just “another addition to the totally confusing world of certification”.
“Consumer cannot and will not be bothered to keep up or understand,” he said.
“The consumer knows nothing about B Corps, and I do not see it as a competitive advantage [for small to medium sized chocolate companies] unless B Corps spend a significant amount on above the line marketing,” Donaldson added.
“As more and more countries, including the UK, Australia, Singapore and soon Europe, make sustainability as part of their legally required annual accounting reports, my opinion is that B Corps are aiming to offer a solution to this.”