To tackle the multiple challenges facing the cocoa sector, voluntary sustainability standards and corporate initiatives, largely focusing on farm and farmer group scale, are often implemented by public–private–civil society partnerships of stakeholders further in the value chain. This paper looks at the social, economic, and environmental effects of such initiatives, based on empirical evidence from large-scale, mixed-method studies using a suite of socioeconomic, agronomic, and environmental indicators to compare the situation of UTZ certified with non-certified farmers in 2012 and 2015 in Ghana, and 2013 and 2017 in Ivory Coast. The results show that, on average, outcomes are mixed and generally modest. However, significant cocoa productivity and income increases were experienced by certified farmers receiving a full package of services. However, the type and intensity of services has changed over time, decreasing for half of the farmers, and productivity and income increases are levelling off. These findings suggest that whilst partnerships have created new governance arrangements with an increased focus on sustainable value chains, initiatives which result in a living income and optimise productivity, whilst limiting environmental impacts, require sectoral transformation, continued partnerships, plus a range of other policy instruments to address the persistent, wicked problems in cocoa production.
- Public-private partnerships
- Value chain
- Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS)