Twelve chocolate and cocoa companies, including Nestle, Mondelez International, Hershey today (16 March) announced plans to work together to “end deforestation and forest degradation in the global cocoa supply chain”, focusing initially on Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

The companies, which also include Ferrero, Mars Inc and major cocoa suppliers Barry Callebaut and Olam International, will move to “develop and present a joint public-private framework of action to address deforestation” at the COP 23 UN climate change talks in Bonn in November.

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the world’s leading producers of cocoa. Observers point to cocoa farming as a driving force behind rapid rates of deforestation in both countries.

The agreement was concluded at a meeting in London hosted by Prince Charles, who said he was “heartened” by the companies’ decision to work together on the issue. “The most powerful direct reason for action is that deforestation threatens to undermine the very resilience of the cocoa sector itself,” he said.

The cocoa industry body the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), Netherlands-based public-private partnership IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative and Prince Charles’ organised today’s meeting in London. Barry Parkin, the chairman of the WCF, described the event as “a crucial step forward” because the 12 companies had pledged to work together on the issue. “We look forward to more companies joining the effort,” Parkin added.

Hershey CEO Michele Buck said businesses had to co-operate to try to mitigate the effects deforestation has on cocoa production.

“Cocoa is highly susceptible to climate change, with increases in temperature and reduced rainfall putting this critical input to chocolate at risk. The pre-competitive initiative we are announcing today, in partnership with industry, governments, NGOs, farmers and other stakeholders is one of the best opportunities to achieve our goal of ending deforestation and counteracting the effects of it in the cocoa supply chain,” Buck said.

Joost Oorthuizen, executive director of IDH, sought to highlight the co-operation between cocoa and chocolate companies on other issues affecting the sector. “In recent history, the cocoa sector has proven to not be afraid to address difficult issues like child labor, malnutrition, and poverty
reduction, all in a non-competitive manner. This meeting provides a great starting point to expedite action on the deforestation issue in concert with other relevant stakeholders.”