The cocoa sector has developed several strategies to improve the sector’s image, and also to contribute to its transition towards greater sustainability. The main initiatives include: certification (Fairtrade, organic, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ) and the establishment of “corporate policies” and voluntary commitments. Research work conducted by IDDRI has examined the development of those initiatives, and the available impact assessments, focusing on their ability to tackle the challenge of biodiversity conservation.

Key Messages

  • Organic and fair trade labels are having some interesting results–especially with regard to supporting producers and diminishing the pressure on local biodiversity (at least for the organic certification)— but they are overly reliant on world cocoa prices. In a context of global overproduction, they do not always offer a profitable alternative to conventional agriculture. Moreover, their specifications are not precise enough in relation to the fight against deforestation.
  • Rainforest Alliance certification includes fairly comprehensive indicators to ensure biodiversity protection, but it suffers from highly incomplete implementation, combined with a verification system that focuses more on productivity and quality rather than environmental criteria.
  • Voluntary commitments by companies are almost exclusively based on productivity improvement, relying on the idea that a better production per hectare will both allow the producers to improve their income, and prevent their expansion. However, many studies show that agricultural intensification is not particularly effective at protecting biodiversity.
  • Deforestation risk related to the cocoa sector remains strongly associated with the potential shift of production areas to countries that still have significant forest cover. The prevention of this displacement effect requires the control of global demand and the maintenance of an attractive price to stop producers resorting to “forest rent” to control production costs.
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