Background and aims

According to the WWF (2020), deforestation is a major global issue which is directly linked to forests being converted into land for crops or grazing (a phenomenon which accounts for 50% of deforested spaces). 43 million hectares of forest disappeared between 2004 and 2017.

Climate change is directly affected by deforestation, as forests play a crucial role in regulating the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Deforestation (by burning and felling trees) releases large quantities of CO2 stored in trees and soil, which in turn contributes to global warming.

Cacao Belize

Deforestation and cocoa farming are unfortunately correlated for various reasons:

  • Expansion of farmland: rising global demand for chocolate and cocoa products is leading to an increase in the amount of land given over to cocoa. Cocoa-growing is concentrated around tropical areas with high levels of rainfall. To meet demand, farmers often seek to expand their plantations, which can lead to deforestation for new farmland.
  • Intensive farming: in many cases, cocoa is grown intensively. These practices degrade and exhaust the soil, which can render the land unsuitable for growing cocoa. As a result, growers are forced to clear more land to maintain their income levels.
  • Monocultures: cocoa is often grown as a monoculture, with vast tracts of land dedicated exclusively to this one crop. This depletes ecosystems’ diversity, making them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
  • Illegal cocoa: strong global demand is driving some producers to grow cocoa illegally in protected areas, nature reserves or national parks. This negative practice is often linked with illegal deforestation, as producers try to evade environmental oversight and regulations.
  • The illegal timber trade: the trade in illegally felled trees can also be a source of additional income for cocoa farmers who don’t earn enough from cocoa-growing.

To tackle these challenges, Valrhona relies on its long-term relationships with partners and producers as a means of supporting them in the fight against deforestation and global warming.

Valrhona's commitments and actions

1. Zero plots in protected areas

Valrhona is committed to having no plots on protected land. By overlaying all our partner growers' plots onto each country’s official map, we can check that none are in a protected area.

Belize cocoa plantation

2. Reducing our cocoa's carbon footprint

Valrhona is committed to reducing its carbon use across all emission scopes: 

  • We have a target of cutting our carbon emissions by 50% (compared with 2018) by 2030
  • We have also set a target of reducing carbon emissions by 90% between now and 2050 (compared with 2018)

GHG Protocol’s 2018 assessment of our carbon footprint revealed that emissions linked to cocoa and other derivatives made up 67% of our total - that meant 127,668 tons of CO2.

So that we can maintain our zero-carbon plans, our priority is to use cocoa beans that don’t come from deforested areas, and to help our partners to develop agroecological practices in their own work.

cocoa nibs VALRHONA

We want to further pinpoint our carbon footprint assessments at ground level, so we have launched a program with Nitidæ (an NGO which specializes in managing projects that combine environmental protection with stronger local economies) to calculate our cocoa beans’ carbon footprint from the growing area itself.

These field studies carried out and certified by the NGO have made it possible to survey, qualify and quantify the risk of deforestation over a 20-year period.

This work will:

  • Narrow down our carbon footprint calculations by plot and by region
  • Quantify the carbon footprint of every kilogram of cocoa that Valrhona buys, right up to the bean processing site
  • Identify what action can be taken to reduce carbon emissions in each specific region

For example, from 2025 onwards, we are committed to calculating each cocoa’s carbon footprint according to where it was sourced and to drawing up a related action plan.

productrice Belize

100% of our cocoa

will be grown outside protected areas. Our traceability KPI is detailed in our Traceability policy.

100% of our partners

will have calculated their carbon footprint.

100% of our partners

will be included in plans to reduce their carbon footprint.

Portrait of a cocoa Sourcer

Through the testimony of Nans Mouret, Valrhona's cocoa sourcer, and Thomas Fabre from Nitidae, discover the actions taken by Valrhona to calculate our carbon footprint.

Nans Mouret x Nitidae

At Valrhona, we are aware that minimum prices are not enough to guarantee a decent standard of living, and we are acting accordingly.

In Ivory Coast, over the last five years Valrhona has bought its cocoa at a price averaging 34% more than the minimum guaranteed by the state. Valrhona also gives producers a premium based on quality. In Ghana, in 2022, the premium per bag was increased by 40% to help producers cope with local inflation.

sourceur and producer of Valrhona cocoa

In West Africa, the NGO International Cocoa Initiative estimates that 1.56 million children are forced to work alongside their families. At Valrhona, we are aware of the need to do better and make every effort to combat child labor. 

Valrhona has been committed to programs that facilitate and improve access to education since 2014.14 schools have been built and renovated in Ivory Coast, Ghana, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela supporting a total of 65 cohorts and 2,555 students.

School built by Valrhona in Ivory Coast

At Valrhona, we know that agroecology is a priority if we are to sustain cocoa-growing over the long term, so we have a responsibility to help our producers to adopt this practice.

Since 2015, we have been a founding member of the Cacao Forest project, a pioneering multi-sector initiative that aims to build a sustainable cocoa industry through agroforestry.

Between 2015 and 2022, several agroforestry models were tested in the Dominican Republic, and the most successful ones were identified and ready to be rolled out across the country. Since 2023, the Cacao Forest program has been developing a proposal for Ivory Coast.

cocoa tree plantation in Madagascar

Traceability underpins all our policies and ambitions and is a prerequisite for any environmentally and socially responsible business. It enables us to monitor, strengthen and orient our actions.

100% of Valrhona cocoa beans are traced from the producer. To go further, Valrhona is committed to extending its plot-based traceability so that we can gain even more visibility over production areas. By the end of 2023, 86% of our bean harvest had been geolocated and mapped.