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‘Sweet nothings’

Major chocolate companies failed in pledge to end deforestation, according to comprehensive new study
Sweet nothings

More than four years after the high-profile launch of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI), Africa’s top cocoa-producing nations continue to see huge areas of forest being destroyed to make room for cocoa production.

This is the main finding of ‘Sweet Nothings: How the Chocolate Industry has Failed to Honor Promises to End Deforestation in Cocoa Supply Chains’ by Mighty Earth, the global advocacy organisation working to defend a living planet..

The new data analysis reveals that, even after the industry published action plans in 2019, Côte d’Ivoire lost 19,421 hectares (74.9 square miles) of forest within cocoa growing regions and Ghana lost 39,497 hectares (152.5 square miles).

This amounts to a combined area equivalent to the size of the cities of Madrid, Seoul or Chicago. 

‘This report unwraps the unsavoury side of the cocoa industry and shows the urgent need to break the link between chocolate products and deforestation.

‘Chocolate companies like Nestlé, Hershey’s, Mondelez and Mars need to stop making empty promises and start working together with governments in the CFI to establish an open and effective joint deforestation monitoring mechanism this year.’

CEO of Mighty Earth

Deforestation for cocoa

Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are estimated to have lost 80% to 90% of their forested area over the last few decades, in large part to make way for cocoa farms.

Through a combination of satellite data analysis and on-the-ground field investigations, Mighty Earth has uncovered evidence of ongoing tropical forest clearance for cocoa.

This includes deforestation in designated protected areas that provide vital habitats for endangered wildlife – such as chimpanzees and pygmy hippos.

These forests are also critical carbon sinks, vital for slowing both the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

Key findings of the report

Four and half years after chocolate companies and governments committed in the CFI to a ban on establishing any new cocoa farms, overall levels of deforestation remain near record highs.

Within cocoa growing regions, Côte d’Ivoire has lost 2% of its forest since the CFI action plans were published in January 2019, while Ghana has seen the staggeringly high rate of deforestation of 3.9%.

In Ghana, 2020 tree cover loss countrywide was 370% higher since January 2019 than it was between 2001 and 2010, and 150% higher than the average tree cover loss between 2011 and 2019.

Average countrywide tree cover loss in Côte d’Ivoire has been 230% higher in the period since January 2019 than it was between 2001 and 2017, and 340% higher than the average loss during the 2000s.

‘All of this devastation is entirely preventable and should have been addressed long ago. Meanwhile, forests continue to disappear, endangered species die, and communities suffer.

‘The cocoa industry has the same tools and far more resources than Mighty Earth to track and prevent deforestation, but limited willpower and lack of transparency and accountability continue to be the biggest roadblocks to progress.’

General coordinator of the Ivorian Human Rights organizations (RAIDH)

Checks on imported cocoa

Deforestation is still found throughout protected areas in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, with satellite data analysis and observations from Mighty Earth’s field investigation in Côte d’Ivoire revealing that cocoa expansion is playing a major role in this encroachment.

Among the report’s recommendations is the call for authorities in the European Union, Japan and the United States to introduce legislation that requires companies to conduct due diligence checks to prevent cocoa or cocoa-derived products linked to deforestation from being imported into their consumer markets.

‘The Cocoa and Forests Initiative has lots of potential but currently is not living up to it. It promised so much but is failing to deliver. Cocoa and chocolate companies have a duty to protect the environment or risk losing the commodity they depend on forever because the current situation is unsustainable.’

Managing campaigner at EcoCare Ghana

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