How sustainable is chocolate?

Chocolate is one of the most beloved and indulgent treats in the world, enjoyed by millions of people every day. However, many of us are not aware of the environmental and social impacts of chocolate production. Chocolate production relies on a complex supply chain that involves farmers, processors, manufacturers, and retailers. Ensuring the sustainability of chocolate production requires a coordinated effort from all stakeholders in the supply chain.


cocoa pod being harvested

The Cocoa Farmers

At the beginning of the supply chain are cocoa farmers, who grow cocoa beans in tropical regions such as West Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. These farmers face various challenges, such as low productivity, climate change, and poverty. Cocoa farmers often earn very little money from their harvest, making it difficult for them to invest in sustainable farming practices or improve their living standards.

To address these challenges, various initiatives have been launched to support cocoa farmers and promote sustainable farming practices. For example, the Cocoa Life program, launched by Mondelēz International, aims to empower cocoa farmers, improve their livelihoods, and promote sustainable cocoa farming. The program provides training and resources to farmers on topics such as crop diversification, soil management, and post-harvest processing.

cocoa beans being roasted and dried

Processing and Manufacturing

Once cocoa beans are harvested, they are transported to processing plants, where they are roasted, ground, and turned into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Chocolate manufacturers then use these ingredients to make chocolate products such as bars, truffles, and confectionery. However, the processing stage also has environmental impacts, such as energy consumption and waste generation.

To address these impacts, chocolate manufacturers have been exploring ways to reduce their environmental footprint. For example, Nestlé has committed to using 100% sustainably sourced cocoa in its products by 2025 and has implemented measures to reduce its water and energy consumption during processing.

man spreading out cocoa to dry

Retailers and Consumers

Finally, chocolate products are sold to consumers through retailers such as supermarkets, specialty stores, and online retailers. However, the packaging and transportation of chocolate products can also have environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation.

To address these impacts, retailers have been implementing sustainability initiatives such as using recycled materials for packaging, reducing the use of single-use plastics, and promoting sustainable transportation. For example, the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's has launched a program to reduce plastic packaging in its own-brand products by 50% by 2025.

The sustainability of chocolate production requires a coordinated effort across the supply chain. Initiatives to support cocoa farmers, promote sustainable farming practices, reduce environmental impacts during processing, and promote sustainable packaging and transportation can all contribute to a more sustainable chocolate industry. As consumers, we can also support these efforts by choosing sustainably sourced chocolate products and reducing our own environmental footprint when consuming chocolate.