ISO / CEN "sustainable cocoa" standard postponed to 2019

Planned for the end of 2018, the ISO / CEN standard on sustainable cocoa is postponed due to a disagreement over the terms and costs of control.

Even though some chocolate companies have embraced three certification systems (UTZ Certified, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade) it is clear the industry does not want to invest all its money in this.
At their request, CEN (European Committee for  Standardisation), the cupola of national standardisation organisations of 33 European countries, launched a process in 2011 to come to a ‘general standard for  sustainable cocoa’.

This is quite ambitious, especially if you consider that CEN has left its familiar terrain of quality and safety standards for a difficult concept such as sustainability. Soon ISO, the International Organisation for Standardization, with 163 member countries, was also involved in the process. Many cocoa producing countries also joined the debate and through national mirror committees, other parties (such as companies and NGOs) joined.
The ISO/CEN is to become a global standard which clearly defines what sustainable cocoa is and which everyone in the field can apply. It consists of three sub-standards:

  • A Management System Standard for the structure and management of the value chain.
  • A series of criteria in three domains: People (living and working conditions complying with the standards of the International Labour Organisation), Planet (the impact on the environment) and Profit (the revenue of farmers and their productivity).
  • Procedures to guarantee the origin of cocoa, probably via various systems: from fully traceable to formulas that allow for the combination with non-certified cocoa.


The targeted system is Low Threshold/High Bar, which implies different levels of application (basic, medium, high). Recognition at one level implies an action plan for the next step.

Unlike existing certification systems there is no CEN or ISO label on the final consumer product. It is up to the companies to check their claim of sustainable production.

The launch is now planned for 2019.