The world’s leading certification agency for sustainable and fair labor practices on African cocoa farms has problems in its monitoring that severely compromise its effectiveness, according to a Washington Post report.
The Post reports that Utz, a Dutch-based nonprofit agency that certified two-thirds of the world cocoa supply in 2017, regularly gives its seal to cocoa grown in conditions that violate its purported standards. Utz-certified farms in Ivory Coast are, in fact, more likely to be grown with child labor, often coerced. Farms there often do not follow sustainable practices, with thousands of them actually being located within national forests that are supposed to be protected.
Utz contracts its inspections out to four local organizations, which is where much of the problem lies, the Post article says. Inspectors are spread thin and are often bribed or even threatened with violence unless they issue an Utz certification.
The stakes are high. Certification can mean an extra $80 per metric ton of cocoa for farmers. The four major processors of American chocolate (Hershey, Nestlé, Mars and Ferrero) all depend on the Utz seal to deflect criticism about abuses in their cocoa supply.