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Do you like the taste of Fairtrade cocoa?

It may be at risk. It is not at all clear what the future holds for Fairtrade cocoa. The large food industry bodies involved in cocoa production are trying to develop a standard for sustainable and traceable cocoa through CEN, the European standards body. Fairtrade bodies are also, rather carefully, involved with the initiative given the vulnerability of the farmers themselves.

In part this is because all parties have valid concerns about the viability of global cocoa production, which suffers from serious agricultural challenges and chronic low incomes for farmers. The price of cocoa is likely to rise as a result. And cocoa production also suffers from very poor working conditions. The civil society response to these issues is behind Fairtrade cocoa. But what is behind the industry standardization initiative? And who is going to pay for it?

Could it be to grab a share of the premium Fairtrade market when prices have risen for the ordinary cup of cocoa?

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What makes a good voluntary initiative?

Some voluntary initiatives receive lots of attention and become very popular. But how much change do they deliver?

Two examples spring to mind: the Global Compact and ISO 26000. The Global Compact has a number of contentious companies on its books, despite persistent challenges from NGOs (and other parts of the UN system). See this press release on Nestle, for example.

ISO 26000 is soon to start on this path. With the expected release of the standard by the end of the year, how will it be monitored, if there are no firm requirements? What will it mean to say that a company has not lived up to the guidance?

In the end one of the few sanctions available to civil society is to discredit the initiatives concerned – which would be a pity…