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From beans to bar: A life cycle assessment towards sustainable chocolate supply chain

Recanati, Francesca, Marveggio, Davide, Dotelli, Giovanni
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.613-614 pp. 1013-1023
European Union, acidification, agroecosystems, beans, business enterprises, chocolate, cradle-to-grave, ecosystem services, energy, environmental assessment, environmental impact, eutrophication, global warming, ozone, ozonosphere, photochemistry, supply chain
The environmental sustainability has emerged as a crucial aspect in the agri-food sector, nevertheless environmental assessments and certifications of cocoa and chocolate are still missing. Given this gap and the increasing global demand for cocoa derivatives, this study aims to evaluate the environmental impacts of an Italian dark chocolate through a holistic cradle-to-grave Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The impact categories assessed are acidification potential (AC), eutrophication potential (EU), global warming potential (GW), photochemical ozone creation potential (POC), ozone layer depletion potential (OD), abiotic depletion (AD) and cumulative energy demand (CED). The obtained results highlight the relevant contributions of upstream phase (63% for the ODP, 92% for EU and 99% for the AD) and core processes (39% for the GW and 49% for the CED) on the overall impacts. Specifically, cocoa provisioning and energy supply at the manufacturing plant emerged as environmental hotspots and have been deeper investigated through a sensitivity analysis. Obtained outcomes show the significant variability of the environmental impacts due to the agricultural phase (i.e., depending on agroecosystems and practices) and environmental benefits guaranteed by an efficient trigeneration system implemented in the manufacturing plant. The quantification of the environmental impacts of chocolate through LCA, the identification of the main hotspots along the supply chain and the sensitivity analysis performed in this study could effectively support chocolate companies in their pathway towards environmentally sustainable productions.