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Sweet sustainability Chocolate industry makes pact to improve conditions

man's hand in cocoa beans

The chocolate industry says it wants to ensure fairer conditions for producers.

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s chocolate producers have launched the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, a joint project to bring about a more sustainable industry and better conditions for cocoa producers.

Members of the new sustainable cocoa platform have set and pledged to work towards ten strategic objectives. The key target is one stipulating that by 2025, at least 80% of imported cocoa products should come from sustainable production.

The project was announced by industry group Chocosuisse, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), and various NGOs including Swisscontact and Helvetias.

Their goal, the group said in a statementexternal link, is to “promote sustainability in the cocoa business”. Long considered a pioneer in innovative approaches to chocolate production, Swiss industry says it now wants to lead the next stage of development by improving environmental and production conditions. 

Tough production conditions

The newly formed platform also plans to “promote dialogue between authorities and organisations in producing countries”. The group pledged to support locally generated ways of improving the situation of cocoa producers and their families.

According to the Swiss-based NGO Public Eye, child labour is a problem in the cocoa industry, with some 530,000 children working under abusive conditions on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and Ghana. About 50% of the world’s cocoa comes from those two countries, followed by Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil and Ecuador.

Public Eye also notes that less than 10% of the costs for making a bar of chocolate are incurred in the country where the cocoa is grown. A significant cocoa shortage is expected in the next several years.

Example for other industries?

SECO director Marie Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch said that cooperating with the private sector on such platforms can magnify Swiss efforts in development policy. The chocolate industry is one of Switzerland’s most well known, and Ineichen-Fleisch hopes that other sectors will follow its example in setting such standards.  

From January 2018, the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa will be managed as an autonomous association with all members meeting regularly. Until that point, the strategic direction of the initiative is being driven by a transition committee of industry, research groups, development groups, and Swiss state representatives.

swissinfo.ch with agencies/dos

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