One Year In, Chocolate Industry Commitments Have Not Stopped Deforestation

Last year, the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies like Hershey’s and Lindt stood beside representatives of the two-primary cocoa-producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and committed to transform their industry, creating the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI). They pledged to end deforestation linked to the production of cocoa, and promised to make the production of cocoa compatible with environmental protection and human rights.

Approaching the one-year anniversary of these commitments, Waxman Strategies and Mighty Earth led the release of a new report revealing, deforestation in West Africa for cocoa has continued, and in some cases has increased.

The report, Behind the Wrapper: Greenwashing in the Chocolate Industry, identifies deforestation hotspots, including in protected areas and national parks, putting some of the last refuges for forest elephants and chimpanzees at risk and threatening the stability of the regional climate. The team used a combination of satellites, drones, and on-the-ground field teams to identify how – and if – these commitments are being implemented in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Sadly, the report found over half of the Ivorian forest areas reviewed showed an increase in their rates of deforestation in the past year. Just in Côte d’Ivoire, satellite analysis recorded approximately 13,748 hectares of deforestation in the cocoa-growing Southwest region alone, between November 2017 and September 2018. This forest loss is equivalent to 15,000 football fields.

Additionally, Mighty Earth’s field team documented that farmers who engaged in deforestation for cocoa were still able to openly sell their cocoa to chocolate companies without repercussions. Farmers caught clearing forest for cocoa told investigators that they did not face sanctions, any cuts in supply chains, or even warnings. The field investigation documented children laboring in cocoa fields as well.

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