In their quest to halt deforestation tied to the global chocolate industry, commodities giant Cargill and environmental NGO World Resources Institute (WRI) announced last year that they would work closely together in an effort to preserve forests. The goal was to map out Cargill’s supply chain in order to improve the management of the company’s risks related to water supplies and forests.
According to a recent update from Cargill, the results so far have ended with the mapping of 2.3 million acres of its cocoa supply chain across three continents. The company, which says it has operations in approximately 70 countries, says it sources cocoa from Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia.
Adopting the forest monitoring system developed by Global Forest Watch, the analysis of Cargill’s cocoa sourcing revealed that 6 percent of the area tied to its supply chain experienced tree cover loss between 2008 and 2014. The company said it will continue to map out its cocoa sourcing while updating risk assessments in order to prevent additional deforestation. At some point next year, Cargill promises to publish a report of new findings related to cocoa’s impact on local ecosystems.
Cargill’s renewed focus on its cocoa supply chain is a win for WRI, which has long advocated for better stewardship of lands used to harvest cocoa. Two years ago, the nonprofit suggested that deforestation tied to commercial cocoa production actually doubled chocolate’s carbon footprint. WRI researchers have urged cocoa growers to consider “agriculture-driven restoration” plans, including the planting of cacao trees on lands already degraded. Paired with sustainable agriculture practices such as the planting of more shade trees, WRI insists such tactics can help improve cocoa production while mitigating climate change risks.
This announcement follows the footsteps of major chocolate manufacturers worldwide. In March, companies including Mars, Hershey, Nestlé and Mondelēz pledged they would cooperate more to halt deforestation and forest degradation. The work of another NGO, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), has identified the challenges and needs of almost 150,000 cocoa farmers across West Africa. WCF’s survey could help companies find opportunities to work on a wide range of issues, from women’s empowerment to scaling up sustainable agriculture practices.
Cargill is also working with WCF. Earlier this year, the company became one of the first signatories to the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), a partnership between the cocoa industry and advocacy groups seeking to stop the conversion of forests into lands for cocoa production.
The goal of these partnerships is to generate updated maps that will boost knowledge of socio-economic and land-use data on cocoa farmers worldwide. As the maps will eventually be publicly disclosed, Cargill insists that this increased transparency is a way ito show it is committed to sustainable development. Furthermore, these steps could help secure the future of cocoa production by allowing the entire agribusiness sector to access this data so they can ensure their supply chains are not causing deforestation.
Image credit: Cargill