Making Chocolate Sustainable, Part 2

This is post number 3 in my series, the Love Conversation About Conservation (Loco About Conservation for short), and my second post about chocolate. The idea with Loco is that you tell me what you love, and I will tell you how to green it. Dorothy responded to my Facebook request by saying, simply, “Chocolate.”

In the previous post I asked a number of questions about chocolate and provided some quick answers. Today I was looking into the impact of processing cocoa powder with alkali (dutching) to make it darker and less bitter. As far as I can tell, dutching reduces the nutritional value of cocoa powder by reducing the amount of flavanols in the finished product. More expensive brands mention that their cocoa is not processed with alkali. The packaging for Hershey’s “natural, unsweetened cocoa” doesn’t mention alkali, which I assume means it was processed with something else. In the United States, the word “natural” is not regulated like the word “organic,” but Hershey’s is making efforts to obtain sustainably grown cocoa, so I will take them at their word for now.

While searching for this information, I came across a Dutch organization called IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and discovered that the tropical forests of southwestern Cote D’Ivoire produce 43 percent of the world’s cocoa. World demand for cocoa is high—in fact, I myself have done quite a bit to increase it.

And one result for Ivorians? Deforestation.

That’s where IDH comes in, with its Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes. In Cote D’Ivoire, IDH aims to help halt and then reverse deforestation.

The Ivoirian president has committed to the New York declaration on forests, including working towards a zero net deforestation agricultural sector by 2017; halting deforestation by 2020 and targets to reforest and raise forest cover to 20% by 2023.

According to the article linked to above, the process is underway.

These days, the media and nonprofits continually pressure cocoa, coffee, and palm oil producers to stop deforestation. Perhaps the fires in Indonesia in the fall of 2015 (when I was traveling in Kalimantan) have motivated governments to change. I believe that this kind of deforestation will become more and more costly for corporations and the governments that profit from it, but I do not believe it is wise for me to choose a date and say deforestation will reverse by then. That is setting myself up for disappointment.