Chocolate’s Sustainability Challenge?
“In the 1970s and 1980s,” says Jeff King, Senior Director for Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Social Innovation at The Hershey Company, “when multinational firms first linked sustainability to business success, the chief catalyst was vulnerability, not altruism. Consumer pressure, political boycotts, and costly lawsuits were damaging companies’ bottom lines, and environmental policies helped shield companies from bad publicity and protect shareholders from painful losses.”
As demand for chocolate increases globally, companies that produce it are making sustainable sourcing a key part of their business strategy. For [other] companies with complex supply chains, the message is clear: sustainability means much more than brand management.
“In the past,” continues King, “when cocoa farmers faced diminishing crop yields, they would simply clear forests and start over. But today this approach is environmentally and socially unacceptable. The only sustainable solution is to seed old cocoa farms with new trees. Unfortunately, population growth, urbanization, and weak land rights are driving up demand for land, thereby undermining many farmers’ ability to invest in and replant their property. As a result, farm rehabilitation is not occurring at the scale or pace that companies like mine need if we are sustainably to meet demand well into the future.” Read the full article, published on Project Syndicate.
My take: Land tenure is certainly an issue when it comes to the supply of cocoa, and not just in West Africa; I have personally encountered this challenge negotiating the purchase of land in Panama. However the article fails to mention anything about the demand side of the equation. Simply put, the vast majority of all chocolate is made from beans that are purchased for less than the cost of production. Changing global consumer expectations about what chocolate should cost is also something that requires education dollars and effort.
What's your take?