National Chocolate Week: How the industry is adopting sustainable practices

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October 17, 2019

National Chocolate Week: How the industry is adopting sustainable practices

National chocolate week sustainability

There is no better excuse to celebrate chocolate in all its forms than National Chocolate Week, allowing you to indulge your sweet tooth while learning more about the $100 billion dollar industry. 

Cocoa beans have been one of civilisations’ most prized commodities for thousands of years; 12th century Aztecs thought so highly of the seed it was used as currency during the height of their civilisation. 

Brits, in particular, are a nation of chocolate lovers, with over eight million people eating some form of the snack every day, UK sales alone top £5 billion every year according to Statista. There is no question chocolate is big business, however, some sides of the industry are not so sweet.

National Chocolate Week draws attention to the deforestation, pollution and modern slavery which can often be involved in over 28 countries’ production of cocoa beans, according to Maplecroft.

The chocolate industry is making a conscious effort to tackle these issues, with some of the world’s largest producers of chocolate pledging to ensure the entirety of chocolate’s supply chain is responsibly sourced and traceable by 2025, implementing child labour monitoring and redemption programs in addition to improving education in cocoa-growing communities.

While achieving an entirely traceable supply chain manually can be difficult, software solutions such as Trade Interchange’s ARCUS® platform can help to collect data from suppliers and achieve transparency in the supply chain. 

The chocolate industry is trying to reduce the volume of water currently used in the manufacturing process; as currently 1 kg of chocolate uses 20 thousand litres of water in its production, equating to ten baths full of water for one bar of chocolate.

This is in addition to the CO2 emissions and deforestation also associated with the creation of Britain’s favourite snack. A 2018 study found the global warming potential of chocolate can be up to 4.2 CO2 equivalents per kilogram; equalling two million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Ironically, this pollution contributes to climate change which is predominantly felt in the areas in which cocoa beans are farmed.

Manufacturing and transportation both contribute to the levels of CO2 produced by chocolate, leading to some companies reducing the number of air miles travelled by farming and producing sweet treats in one country; also aiding the local community and economy.

The ARCUS® platform allows food miles to be tracked, which allows companies to make more informed decisions about production sites which can reduce their carbon footprint.

Illegal plantations which have been created in protected areas of West Africa are coming under fire by the majority of the chocolate industry seeking to move towards sustainable practices, as the plantations have reportedly contributed to the loss of over 85% of the Ivory Coast’s forests in the 25 years prior to 2015.

At least 17% of the worlds yearly cocoa output originates from protected areas in the Ivory Coast alone, raising the question of whether this unsustainable production helped to create your chocolate bar.

Deforestation is not only harmful to the air; it also contributes to the decline of animals such as chimpanzees and elephants, as their natural habitat is ruined in the name of cocoa.

Some schemes work to help eradicate these unsustainable practices, such as The Rainforest Alliance certification which ensures forests are not cleared for unsustainable or illegal plantations while promoting the safe use of chemicals and shade trees to deliver better soil quality.

Sourcing sustainable ingredients is of utmost importance to AAK, who only source raw materials to be used in chocolate that have been produced without High Carbon Stock deforestation or development on peatland soils, in addition to ensuring production does not occur on High Conservation Value areas.

Palm oil is used in many chocolate snacks to create a smooth appearance, in addition to stopping it from melting. However, this production is commonly associated with deforestation and endangerment of animal habitats.

To help fight this environmental issue, AAK helped to found the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2003 which helps to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

Many restaurants who buy chocolate for their desserts, such as TGI Fridays and Whitbread, collect sustainability statements from their suppliers to ensure the food they sell is free from unethically sourced ingredients which contribute to deforestation; showing the food industry as a whole is working to tackle unsustainable practices in the supply chain.

Companies rely on consumers’ trust in the brand, without which the business can face condemnation and a loss of reputation and profits.

If businesses are found to use unethical practices, such as unsustainable farming and deforestation within their production of chocolate they can easily experience brand damage and widespread outrage.

ARCUS® Supplier Information Management (SIM) allows suppliers to directly upload all information and documents tailored to a companies’ requirements, such as sustainability statements and Rainforest Alliance certifications, to ensure all documents are centrally stored while eliminating the need to re-key information, increasing the accuracy of the data held.

Key documents such industry-specific accreditations are scanned by artificial intelligence at the point of upload, to ensure the valid and accurate document has been uploaded featuring the correct information.

ARCUS® SIM can be used with its plug-in Manufacturing Site Audit, which allows companies to verify suppliers’ claims with company or third-party auditors, to ensure illegal farming or deforestation is taking place in any part of the supply chain.

All information gathered is stored alongside all other information in a suppliers’ individual portal, which ensures documents can be quickly and remotely accessed by all authorised stakeholders, providing evidence of due diligence while ensuring transparency throughout the supply chain.


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