Big players in the chocolate industry such as Mars, Ferrero and Hershey have committed to 100% certified cocoa by 2020 and many sustainability programs such as the industry-led Cocoa Action initiative have set milestones to reach by 2020.
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Nicko Debenham, the former chairman of Source Trust and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) said: “2020 rolls off the tongue very well, but it doesn’t have any great significance. We need to continue long beyond 2020.”
According to Debenham, the industry needs to improve measurement scales to ensure sustainability programs have a sustainable impact.
“In the last 10 years the industry acknowledges that there could have been a better outcome from all the money spent.”
A big concern at the World Cocoa Foundation’s meeting in Copenhagen earlier this year was that companies were too often communicating how many farmers they had trained on good agricultural practices (GAP) and child labor sensitivity without knowing if the farmers were actually implementing these learnings.
“If you didn’t provide the full package the outcome was very low in terms of impact,” said Debenham.
Barry Callebaut is piloting a data collection system using farm mapping. Baseline data is currently being collected from five cooperatives and Barry Callebaut’s Biolands sourcing business. The data will assess farm sizes, pruning and fertilizing practices. This will allow Barry Callebaut to assess the impact of its initiatives when it collects data again in two or three years.
Barry Callebaut’s cocoa sustainability program focuses on two pillars: Productivity and communities. The ‘Cocoa Horizons’ program is a CHF 40 ($41m), 10-year initiative that begun in 2012.
“We devote more than that public commitment undoubtedly and that’s reflected in our increasing volume of traceable and sustainable cocoa which includes certified cocoa,” said Debenham.
Role of certification
13% of Barry Callebaut’s total sales volume if fiscal 2013/14 was from certified cocoa sources such as Fairtrade or UTZ Certified or came from the company’s own sustainability programs.
Executive director of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) Jean-Marc Anga questioned the economic effectiveness of certification earlier this year. “It is not measurable in the farmers’ pockets,” he said at a press conference.
However, Debenham was more positive on the contribution of certification organizations, which grew in prominence around 2005.
“It was a catalyst to actions in the field,” he said. “It absolutely plays a role. I think it’s been a good contributor to capitalize on actions on the ground.”
Barry Callebaut recently communicated that its Cocoa Horizons truck, which provides farmer training and healthcare in cocoa growing communities had reacheda 10,000 km milestone. We asked if the initiative was sustainable given that the truck would only stay in a community for a limited period – might money be better spent on lasting infrastructure?
“This isn’t a substitute for that,” said Debenham. “This is an attempt to get exposure to as many people as possible….I think it’s a good community support tool.”
In Cargill’s recent T for Trends webinar, it applauded communications from Mars on cocoa sustainability as an effective marketing tool for the social engaged Millennials generation (aged 15-35).
“What we are really looking at is not just releasing lots of messages about things that are not having much impact on the ground,” said Debenham.
What does industry consolidation mean for cocoa sustainability?
The bulk of cocoa is now processed by just three companies after Barry Callebaut’s Petra Foods ingredients acquisition and Olam’s ADM Cocoa buy this week. What impact will consolidation have on cocoa sustainability? “It gives everybody more capability to implement in the field,” said Debenham.
He added that WCF’s CocoaAction initiative, which seeks to align sustainability programs of the 11 biggest companies in the industry, would be “the cornerstone to have a far bigger impact”.