In early December I came across an article by UK-based Innovation Forum (IF), an independent London-based company that — as they themselves proclaim — “research, create and facilitate debate-driven, focused events tackling the critical business sustainability challenges around the world.”

What caught my attention was the headline, “Game-changing cocoa framework a model for other commodities?” Well, rarely do I see headlines praising the cocoa and chocolate industry, much less one that extolls its sustainability efforts as a model.

Obviously, I was hooked and decided to dig a little deeper. Well, if some of you may recall, the most recent Climate Change Conference, known as COP23 and which was held in Bonn, Germany last November, featured a major milestone.  As previously reported in our newsletter, Sweet & Healthy, the two largest cocoa-producing nations — Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana — as well as dozens of major cocoa and chocolate companies signed, off on a plan to end deforestation spurred by cocoa farming.

Dubbed a Framework for Action, the agreement commits signatories to stop converting additional land for cocoa production, as well as eliminating illegal cocoa production in national parks. It also calls for stronger enforcement of national forest policies and development of alternative livelihoods for affected farmers as integral parts of the commitments.

Furthermore, the two governments and companies pledge to accelerate investment in long-term sustainable production of cocoa, with an emphasis on “growing more cocoa on less land.” Key actions include providing improved planting materials, training in good agricultural practices and developing and building capacity of farmers’ organizations.

But as Christiaan Prins, head of external affairs at Barry Callebaut, pointed out to the IF editorial team, what makes this new framework approach “truly unique” is the fact that “there is no other commodity for which governments, industry and NGOs have come together to agree on concrete measures to eradicate deforestation.” 

When pressed by IF whether this could work as a model for other commodities facing similar challenges, Richard Scobey, president of the World Cocoa Foundation Scobey, agreed, saying it was a “powerful model for change that is replicable in other sectors.”

Keep in mind that this framework, as Scobey told IF, took several months to hammer out and involved 500 stakeholders, including IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative and the Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit, as well as the financial backing of the UK, Swiss and Dutch governments, in getting it over the line. 

Then there’s still the scorecard; how well will this work? Even though the participating governments and companies have committed to a comprehensive monitoring process, including a satellite-based monitoring system to track progress on the overall deforestation target annually, it remains to be seen what kind of progress will take place.

Given all the muscle necessary to make this happened in the first place, I’m confident we will see the needle move forward. And it makes me proud to be acquainted with many of the groups and individuals who were involved in making this milestone happen. 

As they say, good things happen when people care. I’m glad our industry does.