The Rainforest Alliance is committed to continuously improve and strengthen its certification programs. As part of this, in February 2020, we announced a set of measures to strengthen certification in the cocoa sector. We continue to build on these improvements and learnings, which is the basis of phase 3 of the Cocoa Assurance Plan. As part of this third phase, we will be lifting the pause on new groups entering our certification program in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria as of July 1, 2021.
Phase 3 of our cocoa program
We are proud of what we have achieved through the first two phases of the Cocoa Assurance Plan. Not only have we seen many improvements on assurance, the integration of all the elements of our Cocoa Strategy has contributed to a stronger cocoa program.
We are therefore excited to launch Phase 3 of the Cocoa Assurance Plan, which includes the following:
- Per July 1, 2021 the pause on new groups joining our certification program in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria will be lifted. From this date on, groups that were not previously certified against our programs can become certified against the new 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
- An updated policy for farm and chain of custody certification in cocoa that aligns with the new 2020 Certification standards and rules.
- Implement further rounds of audit allocation for the April 2021 and October 2021 harvest periods in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to build upon the improvements achieved in the first year of this approach.
- Continue to scale up geolocation requirements to address encroachment in protected areas and deforestation.
Please refer to the Policy for Farm and Chain of Custody Certification in Cocoa, to be updated early 2021, for more details.
The Rainforest Alliance remains committed to improving environmental, social and livelihood standards on certified cocoa farms in West Africa. We believe we have a shared responsibility, along with other actors in the global supply chain, to help bring the cocoa sector in West Africa to a more sustainable reality.
Measures implemented and improvements achieved in Phase 2
The results listed below follow on from the measures introduced for phase 2 of the Cocoa Assurance Plan in West and Central Africa in March 2020. Phase one was initiated in April 2019. The improvements introduced via the Cocoa Assurance Plan aimed to strengthen our certification program. It was developed to give greater confidence to buyers and consumers that the cocoa we certify is produced by groups who implement our standards effectively and comply with the requirements.
To this end, we have been actively supporting certified cocoa groups by providing them with information to clarify expectations around the Cocoa Assurance Plan and help them prepare for their farm audits. Measures taken by the Rainforest Alliance include:
- Providing GPS based mapping and risk assessments of the risk of deforestation and encroachment in protected areas to all certified groups and their Certification Bodies (CB) before their audit to enable them to take appropriate action.
- Implementing a risk-based audit allocation system to target assurance where there is the highest level of risk. You can read more about this approach here.
- Implementing member monitoring visits to over 120 groups prioritizing groups identified as higher risk. We were able to visit groups with allocated audits once COVID related travel restrictions were lifted in the second half of 2020. Member monitors visit the groups prior to their audits to support them in their audit preparation and following audits to support them to implement corrective actions and improvements.
In addition, we have created a $5 million Africa Cocoa Fund to support farmer groups in the implementation of improved measures required by the Cocoa Assurance Plan set out in the Policy for Farm and Chain of Custody Certification in Cocoa.
We have seen several improvements as a result of our Cocoa Assurance Plan:
- The development of stronger systems to identify and manage risk. This includes improved data and analysis to identify the risk level of certified groups and targeted audits by the better performing CBs to groups with the highest risk.
- This approach has led to an increase in the non-certification of groups, especially among those groups identified as high-risk.
- Better performance of Certification Bodies who are detecting more non-conformities on key credibility topics, such as traceability, forest encroachment and child labor.
- Increased transparency and awareness of certified groups of their own risks of deforestation and encroachment to support better management of these risks.
The Cocoa Assurance Plan’s impact on the cocoa sector
The increase in non-certification decisions demonstrates the effectiveness of our new assurance interventions, which industry stakeholders have consistently recognized as necessary for the cocoa sector.
The Rainforest Alliance understands that the loss of certification for some groups might have a short-term negative impact on available certified volumes and returns on industry investments in these groups. However, from our ongoing engagement with stakeholders we are clear that this temporary impact improves the credibility of our certification program. This is in our shared interest, and ultimately will return greater value to the sector.
For this reason, we encourage our market partners to take this opportunity to channel industry focus and investments into the necessary improvements to strengthen groups to reenter the Rainforest Alliance certification program. This will greatly benefit cocoa farmers and cocoa producing communities, thereby strengthening the viability and sustainability of certified supply chains.
To those industry partners working directly with farmer groups, we ask you not to discontinue sourcing from groups that did not attain certification in this cocoa season, but rather to continue investing in these groups as they prepare for recertification against the new standard in 2021.
We count on the support of the entire cocoa sector as we continue to strengthen the impact and credibility of our cocoa certification program to meet the expectations of consumers.
The impact of Origin Matching Mass Balance on investments in certification
In 2020 we also announced our transition to Origin Matching Mass Balance. As of July 2021, we will start the first stage of a system where companies can no longer use credits for certified product from one country against non-certified product from another country. See our Origin Matching Mass Balance page for more details.
One of the effects of the introduction of this system is an increase in demand for cocoa from specific origins. We want to support the increase in certified supply in these countries, however we also want these increases to happen in a credible way, which often takes time.
In many cases a multi-year approach is needed, with targeted investments and actions from industry. Companies have submitted Sourcing Plans for countries where there is currently not enough certified supply available to meet certified demand and this multi-year approach is needed.
These Sourcing Plans are 3-year investment commitments made by companies and confirmed to the Rainforest Alliance. Through the Sourcing Plans the Rainforest Alliance has increased assurance that certification will be built up in a credible way, as part of a detailed plan with sufficient investments. We are working with companies to support the expansion of certification in these origins. In some cases, Sourcing Plans were submitted for countries currently affected by the pause and extending the pause would delay commitments and investments. This has also factored into our decision to lift the pause.
We expect to see several benefits as a result of these Sourcing Plans. For farmers who are included in the expansion of certification, they will have a 3-year commitment from buyers and support in increasing their certified production. Companies will have the ability to incrementally and credibly build up their certified supply rather than rushing to find or build certified volumes from specific origins. And the Rainforest Alliance will be able to provide more targeted support to farmers and companies to help them successfully increase certified volumes and implement their Sourcing Plans.