Chocolate sourcing lacks transparency

Campaigners have criticised a lack of transparency in the supply chains of major chocolate buyers despite efforts by some businesses to improve the sustainability of their cocoa sourcing.

The latest edition of The Chocolate Scorecard 2023 acknowledged that progress has been made by big brands including Nestlé, Mars-Wrigley, and Hershey, but awarded “broken egg” status to the likes of Mondelez, Unilever, General Mills, Tesco, Walmart and Whole Foods for failing to take part in this year’s cocoa sustainability survey.  

The scorecard is a collaboration between 37 NGOs and universities around the world. Now in its fourth edition, it rates the sourcing policies and practices of 56 of the world’s largest cocoa buyers, including traders, processors, manufacturers and retailers who sell their own-brand chocolate products. Altogether, these companies account for about 95% of global chocolate products.

Companies are rated on a scale of green to red for their policies and practices across six issue areas: deforestation and climate; traceability; living income; child labour; pesticide use; and agroforestry. 

Brands awarded with a “green egg” on sustainability included Tony’s Chocolonely, Alter Eco, Beyond Good, HALBA and Original Beans.

Several of the world’s largest chocolate makers, including Nestlé, Mars-Wrigley, and Hershey, improved on their scores from last year, each earning a “yellow egg.”

Overall, 91% of companies that responded to the survey have a ‘no-deforestation’ policy requiring their suppliers to ensure their cocoa is sourced from areas which do not destroy the forest canopy. 

However, campaigners suggested a lack of transparency in supply chains remains a big problem. “The grim reality is that around 40% of cocoa remains untraceable with beans from deforested land still entering global supply chains. Companies are sitting on information that could shed light onto these ‘dark’ chocolate origins,” said Julian Oram, senior director, Africa, at Mighty Earth.

West Africa produces three-quarters of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana being the largest producers. These two countries have lost most of their forest cover in the past 60 years – around 94% and 80% respectively, with approximately one third of forest-loss for cocoa growing.

The best scoring companies in addressing deforestation were Original Beans, Tony's Chocolonely, Beyond Good, Halba, Ferrero, Nestlé, and Mars. These companies were also considered to be leading the way in tackling child and forced labour in their supply chains, alongside Alter Eco, Whittaker’s, Hershey and Ben & Jerry’s.

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