What is cocoa sustainability? Mapping stakeholders’ socio-economic, environmental, and commercial constellations of priorities
Given growing concerns regarding the chocolate sector’s long-term future, more private-sector, public-sector, and civil-society stakeholders have become involved in initiatives seeking to make cocoa more ‘sustainable’. However, the commercial, socio-economic, and environmental priorities they associate with the omnipresent, yet polysemic term diverge considerably: while transforming the crop into a more viable livelihood for growers is essential for some, others prioritize the crop’s links to global environmental challenges through agroforestry. A third dimension encompasses commercial concerns related to securing supply. The article explores how tensions and synergies manifest in these divergent understandings of what cocoa sustainability is and is to entail, which diverse civil-society, public-sector, and private-sector stakeholders bring to the table. It argues that priorities associated with ‘cocoa sustainability’ diverge, yielding synergies, tensions, and trade-offs. This article draws on the author’s in-depth doctoral fieldwork in cocoa sustainability initiatives incorporating environmental measures, which encompassed semi-structured interviews, focus-group discussions, documentary analysis, and participant observation in Latin America and Europe. It proposes the ‘constellations of priorities’ model as an instrument to capture how the priorities driving cocoa stakeholders variously dovetail, intersect, and collide. Particularly against the backdrop of the sector’s brewing crisis, the paper suggests that stakeholders systematically assess their and other actors’ socio-economic, environmental, and commercial priorities as part of the equitable engagement required to transform the sector and attain genuine cocoa sustainability.