Multinational chocolate companies and traders attended the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in November 2017 where the World Cocoa Foundation said top cocoa-producing countries Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and leading chocolate and cocoa companies, announced far-reaching 'Frameworks for Action' to end deforestation and restore forest areas in the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana.

The move came after an expose by US environmental campaign group MightyEarth and the UK's The Guardian newspaper in October, where major conventional chocolate industry suppliers were blamed for accelerating deforestation in West Africa's Ivory Coast and Ghana, which produce 60 to 68 percent of the world's cocoa.

The trade body for small farmers and cocoa growers, the World Cocoa Farmers Organisation (WCFO), has called for a shortening of the cocoa bean sourcing supply chain to give coca farmers at least 90 percent of the world market price amid low incomes, chronic poverty, child and forced labour, and climate change impacts.

The WCOF alleged in November that many cooperatives in Africa and Latin America are more like licensed buying agents established by one of the chocolate companies, especially in the Ivory Coast.

According to Mighty Earth and The Guardian newspaper, the deforestation is taking place on a devastating scale with national parks and forests being burnt to make way for cocoa trees to supply cheap and environmentally unsustainable cocoa beans to global chocolate brands and traders.

The new investigation by Mighty Earth, 'Chocolate's Dark Secret,' found that a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally in national parks and other protected areas in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

A Mighty Earth report documents show how less than four percent of Ivory Coast remains densely forested. The chocolate companies’ laissez-faire approach to sourcing has driven extensive deforestation in Ghana as well.

The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which operates as an industry association, said that central to the Frameworks is a commitment to no further conversion of any forest land for cocoa production.

"The companies and governments pledged to eliminate illegal cocoa production in national parks, in line with stronger enforcement of national forest policies and development of alternative livelihoods for affected farmers. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana combined produce nearly two-thirds of the world’s annual supply of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate and a range of other consumer products," the WCF said.

"The set of public-private actions represent unprecedented commitments on forest protection and restoration, and sustainable cocoa production and farmer livelihoods. These combined actions, which are aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, will play a crucial role in sequestering carbon stocks and thereby addressing global and local climate change."

Nigel Sizer, president, Rainforest Alliance, said the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana, together with industry leaders and NGOs, have come together to develop far-reaching commitments and an action plan to address deforestation. 

"We are ready to roll up our sleeves and with our team on the ground help with the challenging work ahead with communities, farmers and companies. Certification programs such as those run by Rainforest Alliance, Utz and Fairtrade, can also support verification of progress and give confidence to consumers that the cocoa they are buying is produced in a responsible manner respecting the environment and local people,” Mr. Sizer said.