The country known around the world for its exquisite chocolate, Belgium, has just launched and signed a commitment to make all its chocolate sustainable. A range of stakeholders, including representatives from the Belgian chocolate sector, civil society, social impact investors, and universities, signed onto this historic partnership, called Beyond Chocolate. The Rainforest Alliance proudly signed the commitment as well.
By signing, all stakeholders commit to tackling child labor and deforestation in the supply chain and decent incomes for cocoa farmers. Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo initiated the partnership.
The concrete terms of the agreement mean that all Belgian chocolate produced or traded in Belgium will meet a relevant certification standard, or will be produced with cocoa products from company-specific sustainability programs, by the end of 2025 at the latest.
Beyond Chocolate signatories who have agreements that fall under the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), which aims to end deforestation in the supply chains of the two largest cocoa-producing countries, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, must also be fully respected by the end of 2025 at the latest. Deforestation as a result of cocoa production for the Belgian chocolate sector must end by 2030. By then, all cocoa producers must earn at least a living wage as well.
The Rainforest Alliance has a long history of working to make cocoa production in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire sustainable. Almost ten years ago, for example, the cocoa farmers of Ghana’s Juaboso-Bia area began working with the Rainforest Alliance to form a Land Management Board (LMB) to oversee conservation and agriculture activities across 29,000 hectares. Among other conservation and livelihood accomplishments, 3,033 farms (covering 6,464 ha) are Rainforest Alliance Certified™, local communities have planted 58,600 tree seedlings in degraded areas, and farmers have planted 50,000 more tree seedlings on their plots.
More recently, to fortify Ghana’s CFI commitment to end deforestation in its cocoa supply chains, the Rainforest Alliance and global agri-business Olam Ghana launched an initiative to help establish two more Landscape Management Boards (LMB) in the Sui River, Suhuma, Tano Ehuro and Santomang Forest Reserves—a region where forests are particularly threatened by cocoa production. These LMBs will provide participatory forest landscape governance, helping to monitor and control the surrounding 61,190 hectares (151,139 acres) of forest reserves. The partnership is supported by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) through the Partnerships for Forests program.
Belgium is the second largest importer of cocoa beans in Europe, after the Netherlands and Germany. The port of Antwerp is not only important for the Belgian chocolate sector, but also for the food industry in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and other EU countries. The Beyond Chocolate commitment has great potential to positively impact the lives and livelihoods of cocoa farmers and the landscape in which they work—and the Rainforest Alliance is proud to be part of it.