One of the three certifications Just Kai recommends for cocoa is UTZ. That’s the certification that’s on Kit Kats, milo and many Countdown own-brand products. It’s strong on preventing child and forced labour and also makes sure the farmers are paid a living wage (calculated for their country).
That latter part is really important to us. Most child labour in the cocoa industry is kids working for their parents. Farmers generally aren’t paid a lot for cocoa, and often the whole family has to pitch in to get by. That’s why we value a living wage: it means the parents are paid enough that they can afford to send their kids to school.
If you ban child labour but don’t pay a living wage, you just transfer the problem. Parents will look for other work for their kids, and maybe even sell them to a trafficker if things get really desperate.
However, UTZ is about to be phased out. UTZ and Rainforest Alliance started merging in 2018. From September 1st, that merge will be complete for cocoa. UTZ and the old Rainforest Alliance will be no more, and a new-look Rainforest Alliance logo will replace them.
The current Rainforest Alliance scheme differs from UTZ in that, whilst it checks no child or forced labour was used, it doesn’t certify workers are paid a living wage. For this reason, Just Kai hasn’t previoulsy recommended Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa.
We don’t yet know what the new standards will be. They’re apparently putting in place new measures to reduce the likelihood of the children of cocoa workers simply working in other industries, although it’s not clear what those measures will be. Their new draft standard also has a focus on moving towards ‘sustainable livelihoods’.
We are quietly hopeful this means the new Rainforest Alliance certification will have adequate safeguards in place, and that certified cocoa growers won’t need to send their kids out to work. We hope we will be able to continue to recommend the products that currently have UTZ certification, but we can’t be sure until the new standards are published. Watch this space!