By Katrina Borromeo, Oct 15

Katrina Borromeo

Carbon- neutral chocolates, anyone?

In the world of Willy Wonka, not all chocolates are created equal – some are milkier, some are nuttier, some are extra-dark, and some are well, carbon-neutral.

For ChocolatsHalba, a subsidiary of Swiss retailer COOP, superior chocolates not only mean that the taste is superb – chocolates should also be both carbon neutral and good for the farmers livelihoods.

The hunt for superior chocolates started when the company began measuring the carbon emissions of their chocolate bars. In 2009, they found out that a 100g bar of dark chocolate produces 150 -180 g of CO2 while a bar of milk chocolate produces around 220 – 280 g. This range can be likened to driving an average car for 1 km which generates around 150 – 200 g CO2.1

These calculations prompted the company to think forward and develop a strategy to reduce their footprint over the next few years and embrace the concept “no net loss” by offsetting carbon emissions. A big part of this strategy is investing into reforestation activities involving the cocoa farmers and integrating sustainable cocoa sourcing into its supply chain.

This worked well for the company, especially in ensuring the sustainability of their cocoa supply amidst threats of global cocoa supply shortages. Cocoa farmers are mostly small scale and located in developing countries. Due to cocoa price instability, many of these farmers are abandoning their cocoa farms in search for alternative employment opportunities.

ChocolatsHalba discovered that the best way to support farmers and keep them in business was to establish diversified agroforestry systems that include cocoa as one of many crops. Agroforestry is a method which combines agriculture and forestry allowing trees to co-exist with other crops and animals. In such systems, biodiversity is generally higher because they establish a more diverse ecosystem offering a greater variety of habitats for species. In diversified agroforestry systems farmers also tend to have a higher and more diverse income, which means that cocoa farming is not only good for biodiversity and ecosystem services – it also improves the well-being of the farmers.2

“Farmers that work with us realize that we are not only interested in cocoa but also in their livelihood, their income, biodiversity (we help them reforest deforested areas) and other issues. This makes our relationship very strong: Farmers give their best to improve the quality of cocoa in order to give us something back. So we have reliable sourcing partners and very strong relationships with our farmers. In the case of a supply shortage, this will surely help us”, explains ChristophInauen, Head of Chocolats Sustainability and Projects.3

The resulting new chocolates of the company now bear the “Carbon Neutral Product” label. Recently 16 such carbon-neutral chocolate bars were launched and warmly received in the Netherlands and Germany. The company also takes care to communicate the carbon footprint of the product on the packaging as well as provide tips on how consumers can help reduce the product’s emissions.

In times of changing markets and consumer preferences, companies such as ChocolatsHalba have more to gain in investing in the farmers and the biodiversity they rely on. TEEB argues that committing to concepts such as “No Net Loss”, “Ecological Neutrality” and “Net Positive Impact” can create a double win scenario for both business and biodiversity.4  These concepts enable business to realize marketing and corporate social responsibility opportunities, while ensuring that their industrial activities do not lead to further biodiversity loss.

The benefits of biodiversity-based corporate social responsibility also lie with the quality of its products, the security of its supply, the long-term contentment of its cocoa-growing partners, and the positive environmental impacts being generated in tropical countries – which are among the most important regions for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.5

  1. http://www.chocolatier-suisse.ch/cms/upload/halba2/files/CO2neutraleSchokoladeSeptember2010_E.pdf []
  2. TEEB for Business Report 2010.Chapter 5.Page 10.Box 5.1. ChocolatsHalba: Implementing agroforestry to ensure cocoa bean security and partner satisfaction. Source: Inauen, C., (2010a) Presentation: ‘Promoting biodiversity through sustainable cocoa sourcing – Experiences from a pilot project in Honduras.’ []
  3. TEEB for Business Report 2010.Chapter 5.Page 10.Box 5.1. ChocolatsHalba: Implementing agroforestry to ensure cocoa bean security and partner satisfaction. Source:Inauen, C., (2010b) Pers. Comm. []
  4. TEEB for Business Report Executive Summary 2010.Chapter 6. Page 9. []
  5. TEEB for Business Report 2010.Chapter 5.Page 10. Box 5.1. ChocolatsHalba: Implementing agroforestry to ensure cocoa bean security and partner satisfaction. Source: Inauen, C., (2010a) Presentation: ‘Promoting biodiversity through sustainable cocoa sourcing – Experiences from a pilot project in Honduras.’ []

About Katrina Borromeo

Katrina is a junkie of all trades, and a master of some. She has traveled in many countries attempting to solve the puzzle of “development” but in the end just got puzzled. In between work and language courses, she dabbles into science writing, kickboxing, piano playing and daydreaming about the next adventure. She loves the color purple, but is a “greenie” at heart. Katrina holds a Masters in Global Studies from Albert Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg, Germany, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and Jawaharlal Nehru University, India; and a Bachelors in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines.
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