Why your love of chocolate might be bittersweet


Annual Chocolate Scoreboard Highlights the Best and Worst of the Global Cocoa Industry

What really goes into making your chocolate? There is no food more universally loved, more ingrained in our culture than chocolate. But the reality is that many chocolate brands indulge in not-so-sweet practices. In fact, they can be quite sticky.

The Chocolate Dashboardan initiative led by an international team of nonprofits and academics, including Dr Stephanie Perkiss from the University of Wollongong (UOW), aims to shed light on exactly what consumers get when they buy their favorite chocolate.

Released just in time for Easter, The Chocolate Scorecard assesses 38 global chocolate manufacturers against six markers: traceability and transparency, living income, child labour, deforestation and climate, agroforestry and agrochemical management.

Beyond Good, a Brooklyn-based chocolate factory that sources cocoa from Madagascar, received top honors in The Chocolate Scorecard this year, along with US-based Alter Eco, Dutch manufacturer Tony’s Chocolonely and neo -Whittaker’s from Zealand.

Most of the world’s chocolate is produced from cocoa sourced from West Africa, particularly the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Dr. Perkiss, a lecturer in accounting at UOW’s School of Business and Law, said The Chocolate Scorecard has shed light on the practices, good and bad, that take place between the harvesting of cocoa beans and buying a chocolate bar at your local supermarket. .

The team, led by Australian charity Be Slavery Free, reached out to chocolate makers around the world to contribute to the scorecard through a combination of surveys, interviews and self-reports.

“The demand for chocolate has never been stronger. As a collective, it’s one of our favorite foods, and it’s also associated with so many of our memories and traditions: chocolate on Valentine’s Day, Easter, chocolates to say thank you and to let someone you think of them. Chocolate is our modern love drug,” Dr. Perkiss said.

“But most consumers don’t consider the cocoa supply chain that leads them to enjoy their favorite chocolate. This can include exposure to child labor and exploitation, ensuring that cocoa farmers receive a living income, deforestation and the use of agrochemicals.

UOW researcher Dr. Stephanie Perkiss sits at a table, with Easter chocolate in the foreground.  Photo: Paul Jones

Since the launch of The Chocolate Scorecard five years ago, the emphasis on transparency and international attention to these practices have driven changes in the industry. Fuzz Kitto, co-director of Be Slavery Free, said the campaign had had a tangible impact on communities and the cocoa supply chain.

“The cocoa industry is a real concern in the fight to end modern slavery,” Mr. Kitto said. “But this campaign enables change. Chocolate manufacturers tell us that this dashboard impacts their strategic direction.

“This dashboard helps solve the problem of child labor and slavery in the cocoa industry. This campaign asks companies to ensure that farmers in their supply chains receive a decent income. This means that the children will go to school because they don’t have to work on the cocoa plantations. We are seeing improved processes, an end to deforestation and the beginning of a shift to sustainable practices, which will ultimately improve productivity.

However, there is still some way to go to ensure that good practices are entrenched in the cocoa industry and that companies are transparent about their practices and supply chains.

“The Chocolate Dashboard is making a real difference on the ground, but it needs business, civil society, academia, farmers and governments to work together to solve this thorny problem,” Kitto said.

Dr Perkiss, who specializes in looking at social and environmental issues through an accounting lens, said The Chocolate Scorecard highlights chocolate makers who need to do better, but also those who are adopting good practices and have a significant impact on resolving issues within their manufacturing. processes and supply chains.

“In response to the problems, Nestle plans to source over 14 million tons of ingredients through regenerative agriculture by 2030, which will drive demand for these products. Nestlé is also stepping up its reforestation program to plant 20 million trees each year for the next 10 years in areas where it sources its ingredients.

“Ferrero has achieved its goal commitment to the source 100% certified cocoa beans by 2020. March supported 19,172 farmers in applied agroforestry techniques and distributed 913,513 multipurpose trees for on-farm planting (1.4 million since 2018). These are just a few examples of positive changes,” Dr. Perkiss said.

“While it’s very important to know where your chocolate comes from at Easter, issues of sustainability and slavery are present all year round. As consumers, we can influence change by supporting chocolate manufacturers who commit to best practices.”

The team behind The Chocolate Scorecard includes researchers Fuzz Kitto and Carolyn Kitto of Be Slavery Free, Etelle Higonnet of the National Wildlife Federation, Dr John Dumay of Macquarie University, Dr Stephanie Perkiss and Dr Cristiana Bernadi of the Open University in the UK, as well as with a team of specialist consultants and civil society groups – a total of 30 organisations.

To view the 2022 chocolate scorecard, go to https://beslaveryfree.com/chocolate.

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