Background and content: Sustainability in the cocoa value chain

The cocoa and chocolate industries play an important role in the European economy.

The cocoa and chocolate industry as well as the confectionary and biscuits sector not only is an important employer with around 245,000 direct employees in 1,800 companies but also a stimulant for European and world wide agricultural production and international trade. The industry is absorbing 30% of sugar and 35% of milk powder produced in Europe and 50% of the world production of cocoa bean are proceeded by European companies.

Currently, the cocoa and chocolate industry is facing significant challenges in the context of global developments as well as structural change and restructuring in Europe due to:

  • increased competition and intensified transnational restructuring in multinational companies
  • increased pressure on prices and competiveness of medium sized companies which still are main source of the industries employment
  • change in consumer behaviour, arising both from health and living trends as well as the ongoing debate on the persistence of child labor and child slavery in the cocoa farming sector, in particular in Africa

In 2009, EFFAT in cooperation with NGG, PRO-GE, ACV Voeding en Diensten, Unite and FNV Bondgenoten have developed the idea of a European employee network in the sector.

It is important to take the global perspective of the entire cocoa chain into consideration as the situation and working conditions of primary producers in African and Asian countries can no longer be separated from Europe. Multinational companies which are dominating the sector are operating globally. Sustainability for all people working in the cocoa economy is a significant issue deserving attention, since the situation of workers in Africa and Asia is linked to the situation of workers (e.g. quality of work and job security) in Europe.

The proposed employee network COCOANET.EU will promote the exchange of information and good practice among European trade union partners and employee representatives from companies (multinational and medium-sized) in this sector. Thereby, it will support and strengthen initiatives aiming at improving information, consultation and participation processes within undertakings as well as the development of concepts supporting a sustainable cocoa economy both in the European and global context.