Beyond Chocolate: an agreement for sustainable Belgian chocolate

Beyond Chocolate: an agreement for sustainable Belgian chocolate

03/01/2019
in News
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In December last year, Rikolto co-signed the Beyond Chocolate charter: the joint ambition of the Belgian chocolate and retail sector, civil society, social impact investors and universities to make Belgian chocolate more sustainable. This industry-wide commitment aims to tackle child labour, combat deforestation and ensure a viable income for local cocoa producers.

"At Rikolto, we have the hands-on knowledge and experience in-house to achieve these objectives," says Jan Wyckaert, director of Rikolto in Belgium. "Today, our teams coach 16 cooperatives worldwide representing 14,000 farmers, both male and female, in terms of business skills and the use of sustainable agricultural practices to preserve valuable ecosystems. The contracts we are helping to create focus on long-term cooperation, viable incomes for the producers and a fair distribution of risks and profits".

In the last two years, Rikolto, together with Colruyt Group, has created a new chocolate bar originating from Nicaragua, for example. "The cooperation pays special attention to the training of young cocoa producers. This shows how better cooperation can help create an upward dynamic. The Beyond Chocolate charter allows us to pass on these learnings to the industry.”

And that is necessary. Because while Belgian chocolate may be known as a high-quality product, the story behind this chocolate is still marred by child labour and deforestation in the largest cocoa-producing countries, particularly Ghana and the Ivory Coast. That is why Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo took the initiative of launching Beyond Chocolate, a partnership that is committed to sustainable Belgian chocolate. The signing took place today in Chocolate Nation, the brand new Belgian chocolate experience centre that will open its doors in Antwerp this month.

Broad group of signatories

And that is necessary. Because while Belgian chocolate may be known as a high-quality product, the story behind this chocolate is still marred by child labour and deforestation in the largest cocoa-producing countries, particularly Ghana and the Ivory Coast. That is why the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo took the initiative of launching Beyond Chocolate, a partnership that is committed to sustainable Belgian chocolate. The signing took place today in Chocolate Nation, the brand new Belgian chocolate experience centre that will open its doors in Antwerp this month

Specific commitments

Under Beyond Chocolate, all signatories commit themselves to working together on a whole series of challenges in the field of sustainable chocolate. Specifically, this means that all Belgian chocolate that is manufactured or traded in Belgium must meet a relevant certification standard or must be manufactured using cocoa products from the company's own sustainability programmes by the end of 2025 at the latest.

The agreements between governments and private partners that fall under the Cocoa & Forests Initiative must also be fully respected by the end of 2025 at the latest. The deforestation resulting from cocoa production for the Belgian chocolate industry must end by 2030 at the latest. By then, all cocoa producers must be able to earn a viable income, as a minimum.

"Now, it is important to keep up the pressure as a society as well, to make sure these words become daily practice", concluded Jan Wyckaert.

A few figures

  • Belgium is one of the largest importers of cocoa beans. Every year, more than 300,000 tonnes of cocoa beans enter our country via the port of Antwerp. after the Netherlands and Germany, Belgium is the second largest importer of cocoa beans in Europe.
  • The port of Antwerp is not only important for the Belgian chocolate industry, it is also an important import port for cocoa beans for industries in Germany, the Netherlands, France and other EU countries.
  • The Belgian chocolate industry accounts for an annual turnover of almost 5 billion euros.
  • There are approximately five hundred companies active in the cocoa processing and chocolate industries, ranging from large multinationals to SMEs and artisanal chocolatiers.
  • Every year almost 600,000 tonnes are exported by Belgian chocolate makers to the surrounding EU countries as well as to the USA and Japan. This makes Belgium the second largest chocolate exporter in the world.