© Maria José Torres / WWF Ecuador
Changing the cocoa industry to protect people and our forests

Everyone loves chocolate - and demand for the cocoa bean and butter that is its key ingredient is increasing globally. But producing the cocoa that is eventually included in chocolate bars, cookies, hot chocolate and cakes has a big impact on producers and on the world’s forests. 

Currently, Europe consumes around half of all cocoa produced globally (followed closely by the Americas and Japan) and demand is also growing in emerging countries such as China, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and India. In 2020, the global market was worth a staggering US$138 billion - and that’s expected to grow to US$200 billion by 2028. 

Three-quarters of the world's cocoa is grown in West Africa, where its cultivation is now the leading cause of deforestation, as land is cleared to grow the crop. For example, Côte d’Ivoire lost 94% of its forest cover from 1990 to 2015, and at least a third of that was due to cocoa farming. The situation is similar in Ghana. 

This has a knock-on effect on biodiversity (as crucial habitats for threatened species are lost and separated) and the quality of the soil and the water supplies in the area, even more so if cocoa is the only crop grown (‘monoculture’) which requires farmers to use more pesticides.

Cocoa production also has a severe human cost, as many of the 5-6 million smallholder farmers the industry relies on aren’t paid a living wage and live in extreme poverty. Families that are headed by women are particularly at risk of poverty, due to inequalities that exist in many areas of the business. 

Individual farms are often small, producing a relatively minor amount of cocoa for high operating costs, and low cocoa prices mean they are paid poorly for what is often their only source of income. As a result, they are more likely to take unsustainable actions and resort to irresponsible labour practices including forced and child labour. In 2019, more than 1.56 million children were in child labour in the cocoa sector in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.

© Maria José Torres / WWF Ecuador
What is WWF doing?

WWF is working to make the cocoa industry more sustainable and responsible. We’re doing this across the supply chain, by engaging with both the main consumers (Europe, the United States and Japan) and the producers (particularly in Latin America and in Central Africa). 

  • Producers: In cocoa producing countries like Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Cameroon and Gabon, we’re helping farmers to produce high quality cocoa that doesn’t require deforestation or for forests to be converted into farmland. We advocate for new national policies and collaborate with researchers to provide strong evidence that can become a foundation for more sustainable production.
  • Consumers: In the main countries and regions that are consuming cocoa, we’re raising awareness of the impact of the cocoa industry on people and our forests. We’re working to drive more demand for cocoa that is produced sustainably and pays farmers a living wage, and for the cocoa sector to commit to stronger action. We’re calling for all companies that use cocoa products to ensure that their own supply chain is sustainable, free from deforestation and the conversion of natural ecosystems, and that it moves away from human rights abuses and pays producers a fair and decent income.


Cocoa Guiding Principles and Asks for Retailers 2024This paper clearly defines what retailers must do to achieve tangible results at the pace and scale required to curb the current destruction of ecosystems and human rights abuse taking place in the cocoa sector.

WWF Guiding Principles and Asks for Cocoa Processors, Traders, Grinders and Manufacturers 2023 (PDF). This paper clarifies asks to companies to achieve tangible results required to curb the current destruction of ecosystems and human right abuse taking place in the cocoa sector.

Cocoa Barometer 2022 (PDF) (available in EnglishSpanish and French). This biennial publication by The Voice Network in partnership with WWF aims to create an up-to-date, fair, and clear overview of the state of sustainability of the cocoa sector. 

Living Income Compendium 2022 (PDF). This paper from The Voice Network in partnership with WWF aims to expose the “myths” around a living income from cocoa farming and suggests a way forward and outlines actions for all involved in the industry.

© Hanna Kahranaho, Minna Kurjenluoma / WWF
What can you do?

To change the cocoa industry, we need everyone to work together - from the farmers and the companies that produce our favourite treats, to the retailers that sell them and the people who finally eat them. 

You can help do your part by learning more about where your cocoa comes from and consuming chocolate in moderation. Tools like the Chocolate Scorecard can help you identify the brands that are taking the strongest action for people and the planet. 

Buying certified products can also help. While many certification standards are not perfect, they do consider some key environmental and social factors so they can help you make the best purchasing decision available to you at that moment.

Don’t let convenience dictate your shopping: for example, you could make your own cakes or cookies at home from certified cocoa, rather than regularly buying processed products made with uncertified chocolate.

How sustainable is your chocolate?
We’ve teamed up with Be Slavery Free and other partners to make it easier to spot the companies that are operating in a way that benefits people and the planet. 

The Chocolate Scorecard assesses the actions of companies that represent 85% of the world’s cocoa production, and shows which are the best picks, working to improve and which ones are falling short.

Learn more