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Supply Chain
Industry Working to Make Chocolate Production Sweeter for Cocoa Farmers

Waitrose is the latest retailer to partner with Tony’s Open Chain — a Tony’s Chocolonely initiative to end exploitation in the industry; while the World Cocoa Foundation launches a methodology for measuring household income and living incomes for farmers.

Waitrose joins Tony’s Chocolonely’s mission to deliver 100 percent slave-free chocolate

Image credit: Waitrose

This week, UK retail giant Waitrose announced the results of its partnership with mission-driven chocolate maker Tony’s Chocolonely to source nine of its own-brand chocolate bars through Tony’s Open Chain — an industry-led initiative that’s helping chocolate brands transform their supply chains through transparency — in turn becoming the latest “Mission Ally” to support more sustainable cocoa sourcing throughout the industry.

The first UK retailer to come aboard, Waitrose joins global brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Albert Heijn; fellow retailers such as Aldi, HEMA and Jumbo; and fast-growing UK brands Huel and Pleese as a Mission Ally. Waitrose’s full range — six Waitrose chocolate bars and three Cook’s ingredients bars — are now available across all UK stores, and recognizable by the yellow Tony’s Open Chain button on the front of pack.

By joining Tony’s Open Chain, Waitrose has committed to its 5 Sourcing Principles — including rigorous sourcing standards such as robust traceability, paying the Living Income Reference Price for cocoa, and building long-term partnerships with partner cooperatives to support farmers and develop thriving cocoa communities. As a collaborative initiative, Mission Allies compete on chocolate but collaborate on ethical cocoa.

“We’re proud to be the first UK retailer to join Tony’s Chocolonely in their mission to end exploitation in cocoa, but we definitely hope we aren’t the last,” said Waitrose Commercial Director Charlotte Di Cello. “Joining as a Mission Ally is crucial to helping set a new industry standard, in a world where sustainability is no longer optional but essential, we want to not just meet but exceed our customers' expectations for responsibly and ethically sourced, high-quality food across the UK and international supply chains.”

According to the Tony’s Open Chain Impact Report 2022/23, cocoa sourced according to Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles is proven to be verified deforestation free, reduce child labor from 46.7 percent (industry average) to 4.4 percent and to contribute 62 percent to cocoa household income in Côte d’Ivoire.

“We are thrilled to welcome Waitrose as a new mission ally in Tony’s Open Chain,” said Sanne Van Zon-Arts, Head of Sales at Tony’s Open Chain. “Being the first UK retailer to join us, Waitrose will pave the way for changing the norm in cocoa and offering consumers more opportunities to choose responsible chocolate for which farmers are paid the living income reference price. Together we will make significant impact and take serious steps to end exploitation in cocoa.”

Waitrose says all cocoa in its own-brand lines that is not sourced via Tony’s Open Chain is becoming Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certified (as of 2023, it had reached 72 percent of this goal) — offering customers cocoa products that bring direct economic and environmental benefits to producers and their communities.

New methodology for measuring cocoa-farmer household incomes aims to establish strong industry standard

Image credit: World Cocoa Foundation

Meanwhile, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) has launched a new methodology for measuring household income and living incomes for cocoa farmers. The development of this methodology was led and funded by WCF and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in collaboration with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa (SWISSCO); and delivered by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), with assistance in Côte d’Ivoire from the Centre Ivoirien de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (CIRES) and Etudes de Marché et Conseils (EMC).

“Helping cocoa farmers succeed requires everyone in the cocoa sector to work together. Therefore, having a common methodology to measure and compare the income of cocoa farmer families is important to accurately understand their economic situation,” said Nicoletta Lumaldo, Manager Innovation and Member Engagement at SWISSCO.

Accurately measuring cocoa-farmer household income is key to understanding the impact of sustainability interventions on cocoa-farmer households and the environment; but until now, there has been no authoritative way to measure cocoa-farmer household income across supply chains. And while organizations such as IDH, for example, have developed an industry-agnostic Roadmap on Living Wages and a corresponding Action Guide to support companies working to close the living-wage gap, that and other existing methods struggle to account for factors specific to cocoa — such as the costs of production and capturing non-cocoa income — while data gathered by individual companies offers a picture based solely on their direct supply chains, leaving cocoa growers in the indirect supply chain underrepresented. Individual data gathering by companies and other institutions also currently relies on a variety of different methods.

WCF’s new methodology solves many of these challenges and offers a standard that can be applied to all future studies, research and data collection to make them more widely comparable, and better representative of the sector as a whole. It includes groups that have not been intensively involved in sustainability interventions in the past; as well as underrepresented groups such as sharecroppers, women and cocoa farmers in the indirect supply chain. It also includes robust means of collecting data on diversified household income that does not stem from cocoa.

The methodology was completed with inputs from numerous stakeholders across the cocoa sector — including the Alliance on Living Income in Cocoa (ALICO) and Living Income Community of Practice (LICOP), representatives from producing-country governments, NGOs and civil-society organizations and WCF member companies. It is designed to determine the living income status of cocoa-farming households and the impact of sustainability interventions on household incomes. These two elements are essential to defining and aligning stakeholders’ efforts around the interventions that are most effective.

“To understand what works in helping raise cocoa farmers’ incomes, we first need to be able to consistently measure how activities affect those incomes,” said Michael Matarasso, WCF Director of Monitoring and Evaluation. “This methodology gives everyone in the sector a firm foundation to stand on and will help us to drive collective progress to improve cocoa farmers’ incomes.”

As the second phase of this collaboration, WCF, GIZ and SWISSCO will use this methodology to conduct baseline studies on cocoa-farmer household income in three landscapes in Côte d’Ivoire. WCF will implement an income study in the Yapo Abbé Forest; GIZ in Bossématié; and SWISSCO in the Cavally Forest Reserve, having recently completed an income study in Ghana aligned with this new measurement methodology. Similarly, other academic institutions, companies and government agencies can use the methodology in their own research and data collection — establishing a common standard for the entire industry.

"Through this methodology, we and our partners advocate for standardized, high-quality income data of cocoa farmers to strengthen political discourse,” says Lisa Kirfel-Rühle, who oversees cocoa supply chains at BMZ, “whether past interventions have been sufficient to ensure decent incomes for cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire or whether we still have to address imbalances in value chain distributions."