Chocolate is about to become greener after 12 of the world’s biggest cocoa manufacturers and confectioners came together with the Prince of Wales to end deforestation.
Companies including Mars, Nestle and Ferrero have promised to come up with a plan by November to prevent cocoa growers clearing vast swathes of forest to grow crops.
Cocoa production has largely escaped the criticism levelled at industries like palm oil and beef over forest clearance, but recent reports suggest that it is also contributing to the destruction of rainforest particularly in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Speaking at an industry reception at Spencer House in central London, The Prince of Wales said the agreement was ‘a hugely encouraging step.’
“There are many reasons for this being, intrinsically, the right thing to do,” he said.
“I have for many years have been deeply committed to the protection of the world’s tropical rainforests. They play an absolutely crucial role, both globally, and locally, in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
“But perhaps the most powerful direct reason for action is that deforestation threatens to undermine the very resilience of the cocoa sector itself, and with it the livelihoods of the millions of smallholders who depend on it, due to the increased climate variability that follows forest loss.”
The plan is expected to include tighter policing of the rainforests and incentives to grow higher-yield crops, which require less land.
As well as the chocolate companies the governments of Ivory Coast, Ghana, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK have all signed up to the pledge.
International Development Minister James Wharton said: “Over one billion people around the world depend on forests for jobs and vital resources, but illegal deforestation for commercial gain is destroying livelihoods and natural habitats.
“We can see this all too clearly in the cocoa industry, where the extreme poverty of farmers is a pervasive problem, child labour still exists, and we are seeing more and more forest disappearing.
“The UK is tackling these issues head-on by offering technical expertise to help root out problems in the supply chains of companies, as well as implementing reforms in the agriculture industry to end deforestation and improve working conditions for farmers.”
The agreement, commits the participating companies to develop a plan to be presented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP 23) meeting in Bonn in November of this year.
World Cocoa Foundation Chairman Barry Parkin said: "Today marks a crucial step forward because 12 leading World Cocoa Foundation member companies have agreed to work together, and in partnership with others, to tackle the challenge of deforestation in cocoa.
“We look forward to more companies joining the effort and are grateful for the leadership provided by The Prince of Wales in convening today's landmark event."