Transparency, traceability and deforestation in the Ivorian cocoa supply chain

Related GLP Member: Cécile Renier, Patrick Meyfroidt, Erasmus zu Ermgassen


Cocoa production has been identified as a major global driver of deforestation, but its precise contribution to deforestation dynamics in West Africa remains unclear. It is also unknown to what degree companies and international markets are able to trace their cocoa imports, and satisfy their sustainable sourcing commitments. Here, we use publicly-available remote-sensing and supply chain data for Côte d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa producer, to quantify cocoa-driven deforestation and trace 2019 cocoa exports and the associated deforestation from their department of origin, via trading companies, to international markets. We find 2.4 Mha of cocoa deforestation and degradation over 2000–2019, i.e. 125 000 ha y−1, representing 45% of the total deforestation and forest degradation over that period. Only 43.6% (95% CI: 42.6%–44.7%) of exports can be traced back to a specific cooperative and department. The majority of cocoa (over 55%) thus remains untraced, either indirectly sourced from local intermediaries by major traders (23.9%, 95% CI: 22.9%–24.9%), or exported by untransparent traders—who disclose no information about their suppliers (32.4%). Traceability to farm lags further behind, and is insufficient to meet the EU due-diligence legislation's proposed requirement for geolocation of product origins. We estimate that trading companies in the Cocoa and Forests Initiative have mapped 40% of the total farms supplying them, representing only 22% of all Ivorian cocoa exports in 2019. We identify 838 000 hectares of deforestation over 2000–2015 associated with 2019 EU imports, 56% of this arising through untraced sourcing. We discuss issues of company- and state-led traceability systems, often presented as solutions to deforestation, and stress the need for transparency and for the sector to work beyond individual supply chains, at landscape-level, calling for collaboration, stronger regulatory policies, and investments to preserve the remaining stretches of forests in West Africa.