The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) will create a joint standard for traceable and sustainable cocoa that can be used as a voluntary reference for company programs.
Mainstreaming sustainable cocoa
The idea is to get the industry on the same page to help the 40‐50 million people who rely on cocoa for their livelihoods.
The project began in 2012 and started as an EU model only. ISO later said it would conform with the CEN standard so that sustainable cocoa efforts could be aligned internationally.
Jack Steijn, chair of CEN committee on sustainable and traceable cocoa said at last week’s World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) partnership meeting in Copenhagen that the CEN/ISO standard will be operational by the end of 2016.
“It’s to make sure that sustainable cocoa is no longer a niche product but it’s mainstream,” he told meeting delegates.
The standard will be drawn up by multiple stakeholders including Caobisco members such as Mondelēz International and Ferrero as well as NGOs, farmers, producer governments, certification organizations and chocolate consumers.
The details are still under discussion, but the committee said during a discussion session at the WCF meeting that there would be a low-entry level for farmers.
A cocoa farmer will be identified as sustainable when they join the standard and must reach a high level of sustainability within around three years – although timescales and definitions are still undecided.
By comparison, certification organizations such as Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance have higher thresholds for entry and have continuous improvement requirements.
Beyond box checking
Antonie Fountain, coordinator of the Voice Network, said that he hoped the ISO/CEN standard would go beyond a checkbox definition.
He warned that the standard mustn’t look at the social elements of cocoa farming in isolation of the wider community. “Society is built in a community, not just on a farm,” he said at the WCF meeting.
An audience member asked who would pay for farmers to reach sustainability standards given that cocoa farmers can often not afford to make the investments themselves.
“The person at the end of the supply chain, the consumer, should be the person who pays for this,” said Fountain. Joseph Larrose, head of sustainable sourcing at Touton, said the industry should be the driver of the transition by supporting implementation, pushing the agenda and committing to sourcing sustainable cocoa.
Fountain said that although the ISO/CEN standard was currently a voluntary framework, it could become a regulatory requirement in 15-20 years.
Rainforest Alliance said that it was pleased the standard had become international and not solely European so that producer governments in major producing regions in West Africa could be involved.
“As a European process the producer countries were only observers and this of course is not appropriate. You are not supposed to develop a standard and just tell the producer countries. Moving this to an ISO process that includes the producer countries is key,” Götz Schroth, sustainable agriculture division at Rainforest Alliance, told ConfectioneryNews.