Worker picking cocoa

Big food companies are under increased pressure to provide transparent and detailed commodities data

Food campaigners have accused Tesco and Marks & Spencer of “keeping their customers in the dark” by refusing to take part in this year’s industry-wide Chocolate Scorecard survey, which ranks companies on issues such as child labour, deforestation and supply chain transparency.

The UK’s biggest retailer, Tesco, has been criticised for failing to disclose details about how and where it sources cocoa for its own-brand chocolate products for poll for the second year running.

Gemma Hoskins, senior director for environmental campaign group Mighty Earth – one of the organisations backing the scorecard – said refusal to share data meant businesses were “keeping their customers in the dark about the impact of cocoa-driven deforestation on people and planet”.

Big food companies are under increased pressure to provide transparent and detailed data around their supply chains as new legislation to protect at-risk commodities such as cocoa looms both in the UK and the EU.

“With new UK legislation incoming, it is time for the biggest retailers to get their act together and show transparency in cocoa supply chains to the farm level”, Hoskins said.

A Tesco spokesperson said in response to the claims: “We are committed to sourcing cocoa sustainably and all the cocoa required for our own brand products sold in the UK is sourced through a combination of responsible cocoa programmes.

“In 2023, we also established key criteria for our new Finest block chocolate bars. For these bars, an additional Tesco premium goes directly to farmers to support livelihoods and incomes.”

The Grocer understands Tesco is prioritising improving its public disclosures so that stakeholders can benefit from the information.

It also reviewed its cocoa sourcing requirements last year and is in the process of updating its website to make its supply chain data available to the public.

Read more: UK government to roll out EU-style deforestation laws

M&S also refused to participate in the survey. However, The Grocer understands M&S is in the process of resetting its reporting strategy and will be completing future scorecards, as it has done in the past.

“Since 2017, all our cocoa has been sourced through recognised partner schemes and certifications, including Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance,” a M&S spokesperson said.

“We remain committed to the responsible sourcing of our cocoa and are working to further strengthen our programme to better support and improve the livelihoods of our cocoa farmers.

“Sourcing ethically and sustainably is core to how we do business and transparency is central to this, which is why we were the first major retailer to start publishing details of our supply chain through our interactive map in 2016.”

M&S is also the only UK retailer that is a member of the International Cocoa Initiative, which works to ensure a better future for children in cocoa-growing communities, and has begun funding the Fairtrade and ICI Child Labour and Prevention programme this year.

Of all British supermarkets, Co-op and Lidl performed the best on addressing cocoa-driven deforestation and child labour challenges, respectively.

Waitrose and Sainsbury’s ranked better than the average score for most retailers surveyed, but still need “improvement in policy and practice”.

Of the big chocolate brands, Cadbury maker Mondelez was also found to need improvement across areas such as traceability and transparency, living income and pesticides.

Chocolate supplying giants Cargill and Barry Callebaut performed slightly better. Nestlé and Hershey’s received the ‘leading on policy and practice’ stamp on child labour, an improvement for companies that have previously been called out for not doing enough to address those risks in their supply chains across Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Tony’s Chocolonely won an Achievement Award after topping the Chocolate Scorecard for a fifth year running. CEO Douglas Lamont called the news “bittersweet” as there was still much progress needed across the rest of the industry to “end exploitation” in cocoa supply chains.

Read more: How will the EU’s deforestation law affect UK commodity markets?

The Chocolate Scoreboard survey also found that traceability of cocoa had increased the past year, with the upcoming EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) having ”tremendous impact on the cocoa sector”. 

Nearly 90% of companies surveyed now have a traceability commitment. For most commitments, the target date is in 2024 or 2025, coinciding with the start of the EUDR.

”As a result, we have seen a large spike in traceable cocoa volumes this year,” the scoreboard report said. Traceability to country of origin has increased by 27%, to farmer group or community level by 19%, and to farm level by 19%. 

However, 59% of the big companies are still short of EUDR compliance on traceability, which requires farm origin data -– amounting to a gap of almost 700,000 tonnes of cocoa beans.