Blog: Dean BestNestle's UK and Irish business set to hit 100% sustainable cocoa

Dean Best | 4 August 2014

It may have been Cadbury that made the first high-profile move on sustainable cocoa in the UK when it switched Dairy Milk to Fairtrade in 2009. However, Nestle has claimed it will be the "first major confectionery company" in the market to use only sustainable cocoa by the end of next year.

Nestle's UK and Ireland unit said on Friday (1 August) over 60% of the cocoa it purchases comes from "certified" farms through the food giant's work with the Fairtrade Foundation and UTZ Certified.

The world's largest food maker made its first significant move in sustainable cocoa in 2009 when it said it would spend CHF110m over the following decade. At the end of that year, four months after Faitrade Cadbury Dairy Milk went on sale in the UK and Ireland, Nestle said it would switch its four-finger Kit Kats in the markets to Fairtrade cocoa.

Since then, Nestle has used certified cocoa for other brands including Smarties and Yorkie. The company's commitment to only use cocoa from sustainable sources by the end of next year in the UK is a notable pledge from a business that was arguably behind Cadbury on this issue five or six years ago.

Some may dismiss the use of Fairtrade and UTZ as a marketing lever for big brand owners. There have been concerns that multinational involvement in schemes like Fairtrade could marginalise the very small-hold farmers the scheme was designed to help, while there is still the issue of child labour in the supply chain.

However, the certification bodies argue the interest from the likes of Nestle and Cadbury show a desire to improve supply chains, rather than simply look good.

"We have seen the willingness of leading companies to invest in and commit to sustainability grow strongly over the last couple of years. With Nestle UK & Ireland's commitment, UTZ Certified reaches a new milestone, endorsing the sustainability efforts of this market leader, and creating opportunities for cocoa producers worldwide to better market their product and improve their livelihoods," Han de Groot, executive director at UTZ Certified, said.

Of course, the issue of child labour in the cocoa supply chain still needs a hell of a lot of work. However, the chocolate sector has tried again with an industry programme, dubbed CocoaAction, which has been tenatively welcomed by Oxfam.

The chocolate sector has its critics on sustainability but Nestle's announcement demonstrates companies are taking the issue seriously. There is, of course, a pure business benefit as the industry deals with volatile commodity costs but, in this day and age of intensifying consumer interest in what they eat, big business has to demonstrate it does business sustainably.

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