School of Business

rss twitter LinkedIn Facebook YouTube Blogs

   Contact Information

    The Institute for Corporate Responsibility
    2131 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20052

    Email: Patti Niles
    Phone: 202-994-5206
    Fax: 202-994-5966

Salon Series: A Path to Conflict-Free Chocolate?

A Path to Conflict-Free Chocolate? - A Live Interactive Webcast I - April 26, 2013

Attention to the impact commodities have on the economic, environmental, and social conditions of local communities is growing. One commodity that has gained attention, especially regarding child-labor, is cocoa. Even though the Harkin-Engel protocol was created to address this issue, some consider it too narrow in scope, leaving inequities within the supply chain and other environmental challenges unaddressed. For instance:

  • Thousands of small holders (mostly in West Africa) continue to operate at a disadvantage to large private multi-nationals -- who are the gateway to chocolate manufacturers like Mars, Hershey, and Nestle - when it comes to negotiating prices.
  • Global market prices are highly volatile, adding to the risk and hardships faced by farmers and investors.
  • The poor productivity levels of cacao trees also places further pressures to expand cacao plantations into virgin tropical rainforests.

With global demand for chocolate estimated to reach 5 million metric tons (MT) by 2020 from 4.4 million MT today, and many safeguards for stakeholders in the value chain unresolved, a more expansive dialog aimed at reaching more lasting and sustainable solutions is necessary, and a more holistic (and comprehensive) approach must be considered.

The purpose of the Salon Series is to initiate just such a dialog. To chart a path towards more sustainable practices we will look at this conversation from three levels: a micro view, a macro view, and a mezzo view. We’ll touch on how cocoa impacts economic, social, environmental, and governance systems in the micro view framework. Then we’ll examine the interplay of supply push vs. demand-strategies: Are consumers and markets the drivers to change? Can procurement policies address challenges? In the mezzo view, certification strategies will be discussed uncovering the conditions that must exist for traceability measures to be efficacious. In the end, collaborative partnerships and dialog might be an avenue to sparking new ideas to better address our complex challenges.

What is conflict-free chocolate?

The idea of conflict-free chocolate stems from research that the Institute of Corporate Responsibility (ICR) has done on conflict-free minerals. Considering the path that conflict-free minerals have taken to reach the eyes and capture the attention of the consumers, can cocoa or chocolate be addressed in the same way? Should it? Would it work? Would it offer a greater chance for peace in the communities where it is grown and harvested? If we seek to maximize the impact cocoa has on peace, is there a better way to frame the issue? Should we seek “responsible chocolate?”

**These issues are tangible and immediate e.g. Whole Foods dropping Scharffen Berger and Dagoba (Hershey lines) off their shelves. Will certification of cocoa address all our concerns?

Since these issues needs to be further unpacked, we are hopeful that our four-part salon series will uncover the realities businesses, governments, NGO’s, and communities must embrace in order to consider any changes in their various practices. And to more fully understand the issues so that appropriate collaborative practices in partnership are adopted not only for the betterment of all stakeholders involved but to advance peace.


Salon Series I

Salon Series II