This Study attempts to assess the risks that cocoa cultivation poses to biodiversity, not only through deforestation, but also at the level of crop plots. The main sustainability initiatives in the sector are reviewed and assessed against their theory of change.

Key messages

  • The cocoa/chocolate value chain is characterised by a high concentration of processors. There has been a fourfold decrease in the number of grinding plants in Europe in recent decades, which has decreased the sector’s adaptability to sustainable production’s constraints, leading to the maintenance of a structural cocoa overproduction at the global level.
  • Biodiversity in cocoa plantations is incomparable with the biodiversity of natural forests. The cultivation of cocoa using agroforestry does not compensate for deforestation.
  • In West Africa, agroforestry systems are generally quite poor, and not far removed from monocultures. A phase of restorative agricultural ecosystems is therefore necessary.
  • “Organic” and “fair trade” labels are producing some interesting results, but they are overly reliant on world cocoa prices. In a context of global overproduction, they do not always enable the representation of a profitable alternative to conventional agriculture. Moreover, their specifications are not sufficiently precise in the 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 standards controls that focus more on productivity and quality rather than environmental criteria.
  • Voluntary corporate commitments are almost exclusively based on productivity improvement. However, many studies show that agricultural intensification is not particularly effective at protecting biodiversity. The risk of deforestation therefore remains strongly associated with the potential shift of production areas to countries that still have significant forest cover.
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44 pages