FOCUS - LEI researches sustainability of the cocoa chain

As a world player in the cocoa trade, the Netherlands plays a major role in the drive to make chocolate more sustainable. International cocoa-processing companies with factories in the Netherlands are happy to cooperate in those efforts. In 2011, important chain parties such as Mars, HEMA and PLUS supermarkets signed up to the ambitious target of making cocoa consumption in the Netherlands fully sustainable by 2025. The sourcing of sustainable cocoa by the world’s ten largest companies in the cocoa trade varies greatly – last year the share of sustainable cocoa was between 1% and 15%. More research is therefore needed to allow the impact of sustainability investments to be measured.

Impact of certification

LEI Wageningen UR is working to assess the sustainability of the cocoa chain. For example what are the benefits of sustainability initiatives for farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which export large amounts of cocoa? And what is the impact of certification (also referred to as voluntary standards), such as that of the UTZ Certified programme, and the associated actions by farming families and cooperatives in Ghana and Ivory Coast? Certification aims to increase the productivity and quality of farmers and to increase transparency from producer to consumerin the chain, as well as to strengthen the cocoa communities themselves. Certification can bring a number of benefits to farmers, who:

  • frequently receive better prices for their cocoa
  • gain increased knowledge of cultivation techniques through training
  • get better access to knowledge and trading networks, which contribute to product improvement and also open new markets

LEI is carrying out research into these advantages, as well as into possible disadvantages. It also advises companies, NGOs and governments on improving and implementing certification systems and training activities.

Total chain approach

Together with other players[1] in the chain, LEI measures the sustainability of chains. In the the Monitor Duurzaam Voedsel (Sustainable Foods Monitor) LEI measures trends in sustainable purchasing behavior. LEI publishes the total performance of agricultural and horticultural activities in the Netherlands. LEI also investigates and advises on market developments in sustainable trade. In addition, Wageningen UR is European coordinator of The Sustainability Consortium (TSC). This is a network of international organisations working together to make the sustainability of the most important consumer products measurable. TSC was named as one of the Scientific American Top 10 World Changing Ideas for 2012

Partnership with Cargill

The Cargill company has a long-term commitment to making the cocoa chain more sustainable with the Cargill Cocoa Promise. This programme builds on the progress made in training farmers and partnerships with farmers’ cooperatives. It aims to make a difference to the lives of farmers and their communities, and to create value for their farms and their customers by assuring them of better quality cocoa. Cargill works together with LEI to further professionalise measurement of the effectiveness of its programmes.


[1] LEI works together with the farmers themselves, but also with multinationals such as Cargill, Kraft Foods, the certifying bodies UTZ and IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative), Solidaridad, WWF and other researchers at CIRAD or KIT, for example.