‘When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ This is one of Antonie Fountain from the VOICE Network’s favourite sayings. For a long time we have said that certification systems such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ offer external verification against international standards that best practices are being upheld and they have been the best tools we have. Everyone acknowledges that they are not perfect and that they can’t do everything but they have been the best we have had. This is how it works. A third party (FLOCERT for Fairtrade and SAN for Rainforest Alliance) audits the farmer co-operatives selling cocoa beans to the market to their internationally recognised standards. This offers assurance that the practices and principles set out by the certification systems are being adhered to. Once farmers pass this initial audit, the certifier awards co-operatives the certification logo. This enables the farmers to sell their cocoa beans as ‘certified’ to the cocoa market. Chocolate companies then buy this cocoa (often via a buyer/producer) and after paying a fee are permitted to put the certification scheme’s logo on the end-product that they sell to you. The amount of raw cocoa they buy determines the amount of end-product they are permitted to label through a formula called mass balance.
Certification has become the expected baseline within the chocolate industry. As consumers, we now expect to have someone verifying that, when companies promise to respect their workers’ human rights, they are keeping this promise.
Mars, Hershey and Ferrero have committed to 100% cocoa bean certification by 2020 and Nestlé has 100% certification of its UK, Australian and New Zealand produced chocolate bars and KitKat as well as Milo in Australia and New Zealand.
But there are other tools emerging as being important. Increasingly, chocolate companies are moving beyond certification as a verification of minimum requirements of responsible practice to invest in local cocoa-growing communities.
Often with higher financial and political capital, chocolate companies are perfectly poised to resource the communities that grow their raw materials. By working in collaboration with national governments, the exporters, cooperatives, and NGOs, multinational corporations can work with and for cocoa growing communities.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has moved from philanthropic giving to facilitating development, and now to companies becoming the proactive agents and architects of development. Mondelēz (owners of Cadbury and Toblerone as well as others), Nestlé, Mars and Lindt and Sprüngli have devised ambitious projects that tackle the lack of infrastructure – such as school buildings, health centres, and boreholes. Their programmes also provide training on child protection and aim to empower women. Studies have found a strong correlation between investing in women and increased school attendance and when a child is at school they are not working! Nestlé have rolled out a very impressive child labour monitoring and remediation scheme across their Cocoa Plan farms in Côte d’Ivoire and are now implementing it in Ghana.
The major difference between certification and corporate programmes is the acknowledgement that they need to go beyond economic empowerment if child labour and human trafficking are to be tackled. Recognising that poverty is multidimensional, many companies are also investing in the social conditions of cocoa-growing communities. Based on community action plans devised by farming communities in collaboration with locally based NGOs, initiatives aim to tackle the underlying structural constraints of poverty that contribute to child labour and human trafficking. Community-based projects like Mondelēz’s Cocoa Life and the Nestlé Cocoa Plan attempt to challenge the adverse social factors, such as lack of access to schools, that contribute to child labour, with the aim of building resilient communities as a long-term solution to poverty in cocoa-growing areas.
To read more on what the chocolate companies are doing go to our report “A Matter of Taste”
 Rajak, D. (2011) In Good Company: An Anatomy of Corporate Social Responsibility. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
 Marston, A. (2016) Women’s Rights in the Cocoa Sector: Examples of Emerging Good Practice, Oxfam.