According to the International Cocoa Organisation, Europeans account for almost half of the world’s chocolate consumption. The UK alone is the seventh largest consumer of chocolate. Serving this demand are around 6 million growers of cocoa, 60% of which comes from Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. 

The cocoa industry faces a number of significant challenges. It is incredibly difficult for growers to make a decent living as much is grown on small farms of fewer than 5 hectares and they often have limited knowledge of modern farming techniques. Aging trees that are past their peak cocoa pod production, declining soil fertility, pests and diseases all impede productivity. At the same time, the sector faces a number of social challenges such as lack of quality basic education affecting everything from labour practices and business decisions to youth migration to more urban areas. Children in cocoa growing areas face the realities of rural poverty such as scarcity of land, food insecurity, lack of education infrastructure, access to potable water, and poor health services. The regular practice of children working on cocoa farms is often a natural way of life for growers who, for a variety of reasons, want to train their children and at the same time use them in order to reduce labour costs.

Cocoa is a very important ingredient for M&S as it is used in over 1,000 of our products from chocolate bars to cakes and deserts. Over the past few years we have been working to develop a practical approach to sourcing cocoa more sustainably in order to help secure our access to this vital ingredient in years to come as well as improving the lives of growers. 
Commitments and targets
We want to lead our sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity.

Our goal is to ensure that 100% of our cocoa (by volume) is sourced from verified sustainable sources by March 2017. We are also committed to engaging in wider industry efforts to improve the cocoa sector and building resilient supply chain communities by investing in programmes, which build livelihoods, protect the environment and improve wellbeing. 

Cocoa is very important to M&S. We use about 8,000 tonnes of cocoa each year to make over 1,000 products. Whilst we source cocoa through over 100 direct suppliers, more than 70% is sourced through just three suppliers. We have our own unique high quality special recipes which means our supply chain is incredibly complex. Traceability is also a real challenge due to the way in which cocoa is traded, so it is hard for us to fully understand our supply chain beyond the trader. This is compounded by the fact that we use less than 0.01% of the world’s annual production of cocoa so our leverage or influence in the sector is minimal.

We are working with our suppliers and growers to help them address the ethical, environmental and economic challenges they face in order to maintain a long-term sustainable and secure supply. Over the last few years we have been developing an approach which is both practical and reflects our size and influence in this industry. 

Our Sustainable Cocoa Commitment is as follows:

  • We will source 100% of the cocoa (by volume) we use in M&S brand products from verified sustainable sources by March 2017
  • We will engage in industry efforts to improve the sustainability of the cocoa sector through our membership of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI)
  • We will support the efforts of CocoaAction through our membership of the WCF and our relationship with our key suppliers
  • We will invest in programmes which enhance the lives of people in cocoa growing communities
Our approach to delivering our Sustainable Cocoa Commitment is as follows:

To understand our supply chain and work with our suppliers to secure a quality supply chain
Minimum Standards
Our Technical Terms of Trade set our minimum technical expectations for suppliers to meet. It also sets out our position on a number of areas.

Our goal is to source 100% of the cocoa (by volume) we use in M&S brand products from 'verified sustainable sources' by March 2017. We define verified sustainable sources as meeting any of the following standards:

In the case of UTZ, our direct suppliers must be a member of UTZ and have had a valid audit, or must follow the full chain of custody requirements for Fairtrade certification, including audits where necessary.

Currently around 80% (by volume) of our cocoa meets these standards. Our suppliers are also required to meet the requirements set out in our Global Sourcing Principles. Find out more about our approach to supplier management.

Supply Chain Traceability
Due to the nature of the global trading system it is incredibly difficult to trace a batch of cocoa from farm to factory to retailer. One of the issues, for example, is the lack of standardisation as information is exchanged between various links in the supply chain. 

We are committed to achieving greater supply chain transparency and traceability. We are working closely with our key cocoa trader to understand how we can improve our level of traceability over the next few years. 

To support market transformation through working with industry partners, standard setting organisations and other stakeholders
World Cocoa Foundation and CocoaAction
We became the first retail member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) in 2013. Founded in 2000, the WCF is an international membership organisation that represents more than 100 organisations across the cocoa value chain. It is committed to creating a sustainable cocoa economy by putting farmers first, promoting environmental stewardship and strengthening development in cocoa growing communities.

CocoaAction was launched by the WCF in 2014 in order to bring the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies together to sustain the cocoa industry and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. The aim is to develop meaningful partnerships between governments, cocoa farmers, and the cocoa industry to boost productivity and strengthen community development in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – the largest cocoa producing countries in the world. CocoaAction intends to train and deliver improved planting material and fertilizer to 300,000 cocoa farmers and empower communities through education, child labour monitoring and women’s empowerment initiatives. 

We believe the WCF is the right forum to address the needs of cocoa farmers as well as the needs of the cocoa industry. 

As we are not classed as a large cocoa buyer we are unable to participate in CocoaAction directly. However, we are supporting its efforts by engaging with our key cocoa suppliers, all of whom are members of CocoaAction.

International Cocoa Initiative
We became the first retail member of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) in 2014. Established in 2002, the ICI is the leading initiative promoting child protection in cocoa growing communities. ICI works with the cocoa industry, civil society and national governments in cocoa growing countries to ensure a better future for young people and contribute to the elimination of child labour which is an endemic issue in the sector. 

We joined the ICI because we wanted to support this innovative organisation tackle the key issues in the cocoa sector.

Solidaridad are leading experts in the field of sustainable raw materials and have an extensive cocoa programme. We have developed a positive working relationship with them over the last three years as we contributed to a soy smallholder project in Paraguay as part of our commitment to zero deforestation. Find out more about our approach to soy. 

We are also working with Solidaridad on a range of programmes from innovative research through to supporting wider training programmes. We are currently working with Solidaridad and The Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands on a piece of research looking at the interventions needed to support small holder cocoa farmers to thrive. 

To support programmes which enhance the lives of people and communities
Leadership development in Africa
We’re committed to working with our suppliers to help them develop the necessary skills and competencies to meet our requirements by offering a range of training and development opportunities. 

We’ve also recently launched our Global Community Programme to benefit people in key regions of the world where we source our products, including the UK, Asia and Africa. The programme’s key aim is to develop resilience and efficiency by empowering people in our supply chain. 

For example, our Partnership with Emerging Leaders has trained over 20,000 people in the supply chain in Kenya and South Africa. 

We know that education is a critical issue for the cocoa sector. We are committed to training at least 8,000 cocoa farmers in the Emerging Leaders programme. This is equivalent to the number of growers that produce the cocoa sourced for our products.  

We have seen the impact of the training in smallholder farmers in Kenya and South Africa and believe that the impacts in West Africa will be equally powerful. 

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.

We are working with a number of industry and civil society organisations to tackle many of the challenges faced in the cocoa sector. Outlined in more detail above, we're working with our direct suppliers and Solidaridad and Emerging Leaders to help growers address the ethical, environmental and economic challenges they face in order to maintain a long-term sustainable and secure supply. 

We also participate in a number of multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative to improve the sustainability of the cocoa sector. 

Key documents