Simply put, verification ensures that a program is working in the ways it intended.

This completes the Cocoa Life verification framework, alongside the Harvard research team's work evaluating the program’s impact on the ground (announced in June 2014).

Here Cathy Pieters, director of Cocoa Life, and David McLaughlin, vice president of agriculture at World Wildlife Fund and a Cocoa Life adviser, comment on verification's far-reaching impact:

What will happen as a result of this verification agreement?

Cathy Pieters, director of Cocoa Life: The main thing that will change is that the commercial transactions linked to Cocoa Life will be traced and verified, and therefore we can have confidence that the cocoa beans flowing into our system are actually in alignment with the Cocoa Life principles. Verification not only provides credibility for the Cocoa Life program, but also helps us evaluate and learn from our interventions, so we can achieve positive transformation on the ground and at a larger scale. Our aim is to source all of our cocoa sustainably. If you count all the people that are behind our supply chain, we’re talking about more than a million people who are affected, and the way we can have the greatest positive impact is by aligning all partners and suppliers with the Cocoa Life principles.

David McLaughlin, Managing Director and Vice President: Agriculture, World Wildlife Fund: This verification directly supports Cocoa Life’s mission to transform the global cocoa supply chain by working with farmers, communities, and other partners to have a positive impact on livelihoods, communities, and the environment.

Why is it important for corporations to pay attention to every aspect of their supply chain?

David McLaughlin: Big companies have a big influence. Just 100 corporations deal in around a quarter of the commodities with the greatest impact on WWF’s priority ecosystems. Transforming their demand will, in turn, shift around 40 to 50 percent of global production. Around the globe, food production, distribution, management, and waste threaten wildlife, wild places, and the planet itself. We need to work with farmers to protect nature. We see supply chain transformation as a vital part of conservation.

How does verification affect farmers?

Cathy Pieters: Verification is a way to measure improvements for cocoa farmers, but the intention behind all this goes deeper than that. Our goal is for farmers to see their status not just as another commodity grower, but to understand that they are integral, active members of a supply chain. When farmers realize they are part of a bigger story, they’re empowered.

Most of the time, cocoa farmers have no idea what chocolate is. Each time I visit their communities, I bring chocolate, and when I explain that chocolate is a big part of many people’s lives on the planet, farmers have a big aha moment.

On my last visit to Africa, I wasn’t able to go to the field. When Samuel, a farmer I’d met on many trips to Ghana, heard I wouldn’t be coming to visit on this particular trip, he traveled five hours by bus to see me so that he could discuss some ideas. The fact that he came to see me meant a lot to me. It meant that I had established a connection where farmers know their voices will be heard.

How will implementing the verification process today make a difference years from now?

David McLaughlin: Forging a direct link between the Cocoa Life program on the ground and the cocoa people buy is a vital step in transforming the cocoa sector. It embeds positive impact into the way you do business. This verification will track benefits through the supply chain and cement a bond between cocoa farmers, Mondelēz International brands and, ultimately, chocolate consumers. Verification is important to make sure the program is delivering on its goals, and if not, to make the adjustments necessary to meet the objectives.

Cathy Pieters: This is a way to ensure that we have another generation of cocoa farmers. Without cocoa farmers, there is no cocoa. Without cocoa, there is no chocolate. Cocoa Life is invested in farmers earning more money, farming efficiently, and living in good conditions. Verification is a tool to make sure things are happening as planned. If we create effective programs now, the groundwork will be laid for the future.