From Imagining to Action: Traceability, Sustainability, and Responsibility in the Cocoa Industry

In the lobby of our chocolate factory is a small note on the wall that I placed there. It reads: “Chocolove’s goal is to make and sell the best tasting chocolate in a way that makes customers and everyone involved, happy.”

These are examples of two small notes that each mean a lot to the person who wrote and placed them. Both notes were written with much larger hopes and dreams.

My note was first written in many words and rewritten over time and made concise. The longer version expounded on what each part meant. The part about “everyone involved“ does indeed include everyone in our supply chain, from farmers, exporters, chocolate makers, and our factory workers; all the people.

Many years ago, I was invited to speak at a World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) meeting. At that time a civil war in Ivory Coast, with some border conflicts, had just ended in a fragile peace. For my speech, I quoted and adapted lyrics from John Lennon’s “Imagine”. I shared with the audience that daily I take time to imagine all the people in the cocoa industry. In order to be compelling, I took a bit of license with the lyrics of “Imagine” and asked the audience on that day to, “Imagine all the children, going to school today, imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, living life in peace”.

Obviously it takes more than imagining; it takes persistent hard work, and it is hard to do. On the heels of my talk to the WCF, I outlined my vision with my chocolate supplier in Belgium. And Chocolove embarked upon a process of doing our part by buying fully traceable cocoa; traceable in every step in the supply chain back to the farmer. It would take two years of persistent work to get it set up, to get a seal on the back of our package; it was hard to do. A key to the success of fully traceable supply to the farmer was Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, who had gone before me and were well established in-country.

In the words of the Rainforest Alliance, “The advancement of basic human rights is intrinsic to sustainable land management and forest conservation … The earliest sustainability certification standards we helped develop included provisions to guard against child labor and forced labor—and to protect the land rights of indigenous people”.

Today it is easier than it was in 2011 to imagine all the people, and yet the work is still hard to do. I hope today you’ll join us and work to help the world live as one.