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Cocoa traceability still a blind spot

Many major cocoa buyers lack plans to enforce no-deforestation policies ahead of the introduction of new EU and UK laws.

The latest update to the annual Chocolate Scorecard found that although 58 of the 63 companies assessed said they had adopted no-deforestation policies, many do not have plans in place to effectively implement and monitor them to ensure compliance throughout their entire supply chains.

The survey also uncovered ongoing issues linked to labour. Of the 63 companies that took part in the survey, only six were found to be paying 100% of their farmers a ‘living income reference price’, however 100% of companies do now have a public policy in place for monitoring, reducing or eliminating child labour.

Coordinated by Be Slavery Free in collaboration with universities, consultants and civil society groups, the Chocolate Scorecard is a global survey of the industry, which ranks processors, manufacturers and retailers on issues such as transparency and traceability, deforestation and child labour.

Ritter Sport and Tony’s Chocolonely were among the brands to receive overall ‘good egg’ status for their commitments and practices across a range of issues. By contrast, none of the major retailers assessed achieved an overall good egg award with Lidl and the Co-op considered to be the best at addressing child labour on cocoa farms and cocoa-driven deforestation, respectively.

“The chocolate brands doing the most to prevent deforestation in their cocoa supply chains are leading the way on both traceability and living income,” said Julian Oram, senior policy director at the NGO, Mighty Earth, which took part in the scoring. “You can’t help cocoa farmers protect forests unless you first know who those farmers are, and then reward them for growing cocoa sustainably. Companies like Tony’s and Ritter are showing where the whole industry needs to go.”

Cocoa is one of the five key forest-risk commodities covered by new UK rules currently awaiting secondary legislation under the Environment Act (2021), which will require businesses to provide assurances through their annual reporting that the cocoa beans they purchase are not sourced from illegally deforested land. New EU due diligence laws coming into force at the end of this year are considered even more stringent as they cover both legal and illegal deforestation.

As well as pressure from campaigners, chocolate buyers are facing huge spikes in the price of cocoa which recently topped $10,000 (£8,000) a tonne for the first time, up from $5-6,000 just a few weeks ago. Bad weather and crop disease has hit growers in the key producing region of west Africa causing supply shortages and forcing up prices.