Harold Poelma, Chairman of the European Cocoa Association and President of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, has called for a single national standard for sustainable cocoa in line with consuming country requirements for imported cocoa.
He said the move is urgently needed for the sector as a solid and a recognised standard covering stringent human rights and environmental protections that should be compliant for every cocoa farmer.
“The standard should be achievable by farmers in a reasonable time frame with basic level of support and training, and should have a structure that benefits from insights of government as well as the cocoa private sector, along with an auditing structure that provides trust and credibility towards end consumers,” he told the WCF Partnership Meeting.
The logic behind the new cocoa sustainable initiative of the European Commission is it aims to link higher prices to better working conditions and strong environmental protection -- Jutta Urpilainen, European Union Commissioner for International Partnerships
Poelma took part on an online panel convened by European Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala with producing countries, industry, and civil society, on how EU interventions can most effectively drive action to eliminate child labour, protect and restore forests, and ensure a living income for cocoa farmers.
EU Green Deal
The whole of the EU Commission is now engaged in implementing the EU Green Deal - a cross-cutting approach to EU policymaking and a systemic transition within the EU towards sustainability.
“The EU,” said Hautala, “is in a leading position - and the challenge is to build a preventative mechanism that ensures actions and positive impact on the ground and embed due diligence process into companies’ everyday activities and business strategies.”
She said the range of legal and practical barriers is enormous, and it is important to remember a company is not expected to play the role of a state - neither is it expected to do more than what it is reasonably expected of it.
“A company is liable for its own due diligence actions and if it is able to show it has taken due care, it should not be considered liable,” she said.
She told the delegates there is a “high chance” that the EU will introduce a new reporting standard in 2021. The move has already been welcomed by organisations including the WCF, International Cocoa Initiative and the major chocolate companies, as it will provide a level playing field for companies operating within the EU, creating less confusion from the existing national patchwork of requirements.
In her keynote speech to the meeting, held online this year, Jutta Urpilainen, European Commission Commissioner for International Partnerships, said: “The consensus is that producers, consumers and policymakers can have a real impact in supporting a decent price for cocoa farmers over the long-term – and it cannot happen without progress on sustainability.
“The logic behind the new cocoa sustainable initiative of the European Commission is it aims to link higher prices to better working conditions and strong environmental protection.
She said the coronavirus pandemic may have disrupted some of the EC’s work, “but it has also spurred us on to be more ambitious, to develop bolder responses to the shortfall in the supply chain.”
Barry Parkin, Mars' Chief Procurement & Sustainability Officer, opened the session by saying the cocoa sector “must not shy away from” from the significant challenges – poverty, child labour, deforestation – calling them “unacceptable”.
He said that without doubt, it’s a tough time for the industry with millions of children still involved in child labour and forests still being cut down for the spread of cocoa and other crops.
“By working together, the industry can drive real change – we now understand the issues and have proven that voluntary interventions alongside government can drive change. But we need all the industry to be working on this – not just leading companies.”
Parkin said about half the chocolate industry is engaged with cleaning up its supply chain: “we need the other half.”
He also called for a powerful partnership between the demand countries within the EU and the supply countries that grow the crop to accelerate progress and identify much-needed investment to drive change on the ground.
Abou Dosso, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire Head of Mission to the European Union, said his country supports the EU Initiatives, including public-private partnerships, and will look into how farmers can support the framework.
Effective regulatory framework
Poelma also said the EU has a role to play in providing an efficient and effective regulatory framework for the cocoa sector. “The lack of farmer registration system is a major factor contributing to the uncontrolled expansion of cocoa and that companies and regulatory bodies of producing countries should know where farms are located.”
Pressure on companies
Justin Adams, The World Economic Forum’s Tropical Forest Alliance Executive Director, said there has been “lots of really good progress where there has been individual action, and there has been a lot of pressure on companies to take action to remove deforestation from their supply chains in the past 10 years.”
But challenges persist, he said, and more collective action is needed. “Cocoa is such a key crop and Europe is a critical importer … there is recognition of no silver bullet, due diligence is only one of a suite of tools that will be needed if we are really to make progress – and a ‘smart mix of measures’ are involved in complex system.”
Adams said the five measures proposed by the Tropical Forest Alliance include:
- Deeper recognition of producer country partnerships in Europe.
- Better mechanism around sustainability.
- International standards and consistency in regulatory approach.
- Finance – genuine incentive for climate-smart agriculture.
- Verification – with more satellite monitoring to bring consistent traceability and transparency.
Caobisco's President Aldo Cristiano added any due diligence system will only be effective if it is coupled with framework agreements with cocoa producing countries that ensure an effective enabling environment.
“The EU will need to negotiate framework agreements with governments of relevant cocoa-producing countries, focussing on creating right incentives to ensure a systemic long-term solution,” he told the Partnership Meeting.