The CEOs of the world’s major chocolate companies are in agreement: They don’t want you to feel guilty when biting into a chocolate bar.
Not because candy is bad for you, but because cocoa production causes deforestation. Hershey, Nestle, Mars and nine other companies have agreed to work together to source its cocoa in a way that doesn’t lead to forest loss.
The corporations said they would work in conjunction with one another, producer country’s governments, farmers, civil society organizations and development partners to address deforestation in cocoa supply chains. They will also invest in more sustainable landscape management and programs to help small farmers improve productivity.
“Cocoa is highly susceptible to climate change, with increases in temperature and reduced rainfall putting this critical input to chocolate at risk,” said Hershey CEO Michele Buck. “The pre-competitive initiative we are announcing today ... is one of the best opportunities to achieve our goal of ending deforestation and counteracting the effects of it in the cocoa supply chain.”
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According to the World Resources Institute, production of a 7 ounce bar of milk chocolate produced from a cleared rainforest is equivelant to the carbon dioxide emissions of driving 3.2 miles in a car. Dark chocolate is equivalent to 4.9 miles.
The initiative will begin in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, two major leading producers in Africa. That continent is home to 68 percent of global cocoa production, with Asia at 17 percent and the Americas at 15 percent.
“Cote d’Ivoire, the world's leading producer of cocoa, in 2014 signed the New York Declaration on Forests, the objective of which is the elimination of deforestation caused by agriculture,” said the country’s minister for the environment and sustainable development, Marcel Yao. “We intend, with the support of the private sector, to undertake efforts to preserve our forests by improving productivity on existing cocoa lands and developing agroforestry approaches to sustainable cocoa production without deforestation.
The process of cocoa to chocolate is a long one. Cocoa trees thrive in tropical environments, within 15-20 degrees of the equator. Harvesting cocoa pods generally happens two times a year, and then removed beans are fermented and dried. The dried beans are sold, exported and then roasted, ground and pressed. It is then made into chocolate.
Monitoring conditions along the supply chain is a challenge because 80 to 90 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced by small, family-owned farms, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. There are approximately five to six million cocoa farmers around the world.
Europe processes the most cocoa of any continent, at 40 percent. Germany imports the most cocoa butter and cocoa paste, but the U.S. imports the most cocoa powder and cocoa cake.
The chocolate producers aim to introduce a framework for action by November, which they hope to present at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.