Manufacturers and charities call for greater EU regulation of cocoa industry

The cocoa supply chain has been under fire repeatedly over numerous issues, including human rights violations, environmental issues, deforestation, and accusations of child labour. Because of this, major manufacturers have called for the EU to strengthen its approach to these issues.

In a recent joint paper, manufacturers like Mars Wrigley, Barry Callebaut AG, and Mondelēz International, alongside the Rainforest Alliance, the VOICE network and Fairtrade, called for the EU to improve its requirements on various concerns and take a tougher regulatory stance.

In the paper, they specifically asked for the EU to act in line with United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which, according to the text, would “benefit all actors in the supply chain in terms of a clear and consistent set of rules and common intent”.

Accusations have been made over corruption within supply chains leading to widespread deforestation. In addition, poor governance standards and law enforcement has been identified as one of the biggest underlying causes of many of the issues raised.

The paper notes that, as the EU is the largest consumer and importer of cocoa, it holds a great power to drive any changes in the market in the industry. It also has the ability to introduce legislative action that would address some of the problems.

It also says that, going forward, individual companies have a “huge amount of work to do” – although some are doing better than others – to take responsibility and ensure they identify any risks, then take action where there’s evidence of human rights or environmental risks.

The initiative calls for the EU to push for bilateral agreements with governments of cocoa origin countries, then negotiate regulatory and policy framework to make sure companies are diligent. This would encourage sustainable cocoa products and improve consumer trust in the sector.

Julia Christian, forest policy adviser at Fern, the forests and rights NGO, said that “companies are known more for opposing laws which regulate their activities than for promoting them. So today’s statement by some of the world’s biggest chocolate companies calling for laws regulating cocoa supply chains is commendable and a watershed moment”.

She added that it is also a “potent sign of the urgent need for regulations to end the deforestation and human rights abuses that have disfigured the cocoa industry for decades” and that “laws placing clear obligations on all actors in the cocoa supply chain are required, as leaving industry to self-regulate is not enough”.

MEP Heidi Hautala, vice president of the European Parliament, said the EU “has a clear responsibility to ensure that cocoa entering the EU market does not make consumers complicit in child labour and deforestation”.

She added that, in addition to mandatory due diligence legislation, the EU should also “use its other tools for partnerships with the major producer countries (such as Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire), including development cooperation. It is our duty now to ensure that children can go to school and plantations are legal,” she said.

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