Sainsbury's Targets Sustainable Cocoa by 2025

Sainsbury's aims for 100% sustainable cocoa by 2025 (Credit: Rainforest Alliance)
UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's aims for 100% sustainable cocoa by 2025, tackling ESG issues with traceability, collaboration & ethical sourcing

Cocoa is a vital ingredient in a range of confectionery and bakery products at Sainsbury’s. Most of the cocoa comes from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, where smallholder farmers grow it.

With this comes significant human rights and environmental risks in cocoa-producing regions. The main challenge throughout the industry is income inequality, with many farmers not receiving a living income. As a business, Sainsbury's is looking to ensure a safe, reliable, and affordable supply of cocoa by taking effective mitigation measures.

Sainsbury's 'committed to sustainable sourcing'

The business is committed to its sustainable sourcing. Sainsbury’s defines sustainable sourcing as ensuring it knows the origins of the ingredients, upholding its sourcing standards and policies, and constantly addressing both the environmental and human rights impacts of the products with suppliers.

At COP26, held in November 2021, Sainsbury’s committed to ensure its own-brand product supply chain would be Deforestation and Conversion Free (DCF) by 2025, with a cut-off date of 2020.

This includes the cocoa supply chains, which is why the business has committed to sourcing 100% sustainable cocoa in all its own-brand products with cocoa as an ingredient by 2025, as well as committing to increasing the volumes of fully traceable cocoa.

As part of its Plan for Better initiative, Sainsbury’s is steadfast in its commitment to reporting transparently on its performance. At this time, 83%* of its block chocolate range is already certified sustainable.

This year, Sainsbury’s has gone beyond just chocolate to strengthen the minimum sourcing standards for all of its brand products containing any cocoa ingredients. It has completed supply chain mapping of the cocoa sourcing across its whole business.

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2023 own supply performance (based on the number of SKUs in our block range that are certified Rainforest Alliance as of March 2024)
  • Total cocoa footprint: 5,734 tonnes
  • % from certified sustainable sources: 47.2%
  • % from uncertified sources: 52.8%

The business believes that while setting the clearest expectations for its products is a vital first step, it is not sufficient on its own.

That is why Sainsbury’s works with its suppliers and the traders they source from to make ensure they have adequate human rights and environmental due diligence processes in their operations and supply chains. Knowing this will be achieved progressively, but by working with other retailers and manufacturers, the business believes it can send a clear market signal to bring about sector-wide change.

As well as engaging with its own direct own-brand suppliers, Sainsbury’s is engaging with cocoa traders and importers within its supply chains.

Knowing how critical it is to work together to improve the traceability of its cocoa supply chains and encourage better agricultural practices by cocoa farmers. As members of the Retailer Cocoa Collaboration, led by 3keel, Sainsbury’s annually engages with the top seven cocoa traders.

Lessons as a retailer

As the business works as a retailer, its own experience of working within cocoa supply chains has taught valuable lessons:

  • Collaboration provides an effective and efficient way to support change and grow its leverage.
  • Harmonised approaches by retailers are preferred by its supply chain partners.

Key levers exist for Sainsbury’s to drive change in its typically long and complicated commodity supply chains.

  • Minimum sourcing requirements
  • Responsible purchasing practices
  • On-the-ground investments to address salient risks
  • Industry-wide collaboration and advocacy
Sainsbury's aims for 100% sustainable cocoa by 2025 (Credit: Sainsbury's)

Key Findings from the 2023 RCC Assessment:

  1. Traceability has jumped forward in just a year to meet EUDR requirements. Predominantly in direct supply chains, a significant shift has also been seen in indirect supply chains.
  2. Certification is at an all-time high. Rainforest Alliance is the most prevalent independent scheme. Traders have significant volumes falling under their own proprietary certification schemes too.
  3. Deforestation is still a significant risk, with land conversion not being addressed alongside deforestation. Whilst traders now have a deforestation commitment and policies in place, these are nearly always limited in scope by geography or exclusion of land conversion.
  4. Child labour issues are not being sufficiently identified, remediated, or prevented. A serious human rights issue pervasive in West African sourcing geographies is not being significantly addressed, with low levels of Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems in all trader supply chains.
  5. Poverty and lack of living income are still significant issues. Many traders are still unable to report on the proportion of farmers receiving a living income, and those that are often report disappointing progress.
  6. Climate change progress is pushing forward. Traders have made significant gains in assessing carbon in supply chains and setting climate targets
  7. Indirect supply chains are hotspots for environmental and human rights issues. Nearly all commitments and initiatives cover just the direct portion of a trader's supply chain, leaving opportunities for unchecked human rights abuses and deforestation risks in a significant proportion of supply chains.​​​​​​​

Industry collaboration

The business is part of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, a public-private partnership driven by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. 36 leading cocoa and chocolate companies, representing 85% of global cocoa usage, have joined together to end deforestation and restore forest areas. The combined actions play a crucial role in protecting and restoring biodiversity, sequestering carbon stocks in West African forests, and addressing climate change.

On joining WCF, the then CEO of Sainsbury's, Mike Coupe, said: “We have a long standing commitment to source our products with integrity and are delighted to be joining the World Cocoa Foundation. Our first step has been to support the Cocoa & Forests Initiative to help end deforestation and future-proof the cocoa supply chain. As a global business we need to think and act locally to help achieve sustainable cocoa production and improved farmer livelihoods. We believe that through collective action we can have a far greater impact, so we’re looking forward to collaborating with industry, NGOs and governments to address the multiple challenges facing the cocoa sector.”

The Cocoa & Forests Initiative has committed to:

  • Protect and restore forests
  • Promote sustainable cocoa production and farmers’ livelihoods
  • Engage communities and boost social inclusion

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