It’s no coincidence that this year’s World Cocoa Foundation’s Partnership meeting will be held in Berlin, after all the foundations for sustainability in cocoa were laid in Germany during the 19th century and this year’s get-together of the trade group comes at a critical time for the industry.
Richard Scobey, WCF president, said: “It is taking place as industry seeks new ways to solve long-standing problems in the supply chain and move more decisively towards creating prosperous farmers, empowered communities, and a healthy planet.”
The gathering is the leading industry event on sustainability in cocoa and chocolate. It will draw more than 300 sustainability experts, cocoa and chocolate company representatives, government officials, and other stakeholders.
The biggest market in Europe for chocolate
In his blogpost on the WCF website Alexander Ferguson, WCF’s vice president for communications and membership, wrote: “Germany traces the origins of sustainability efforts in its cocoa and chocolate industry back to the 19th century. It was in 1876 that the industry established the Association of German Chocolate Manufacturers in Dresden. Initially committed to upholding quality standards, its successor organizations added commitments to consumer protection and sustainability in what is today the biggest market in Europe for chocolate.”
The theme of this year’s WCF meeting is ‘Drivers of Change’, exploring three specific areas:
- Effective stakeholder collaboration and partnerships
- Strong business and policy environment; and
- Public private investment in science, innovation, and learning
Speaking on the phone from the WCF’s headquarters in Washington, Ferguson said: “These are integral to a new WCF strategy, which will be the first time that we see a partnership meeting discuss this new pathway to sustainable cocoa.
“As you see, we've got three drivers of change we’ll be discussing. We feel that the theme of change is important because the Partnership Meeting is coming at a critical time for the industry. It's coming at a time when the industry is trying to find new ways to solve long-standing problems, our vision has always been to help farmers prosper, empower communities and respect human rights, and look after a healthy planet."
Ferguson Joined the WCF in July this year after at a variety of leadership positions at the World Bank. He took over the role from Tim McCoy who moved to Abidjan to become the WCF’s vice president for country relations.
He said the transition from the mammoth World Bank to the comparatively smaller WCF has been a joy. “It’s very exciting, and there’s a lot to learn, but it’s great working with a close-knit, professional team.”
The meeting in Berlin will look at new agreements the industry, governments and other stakeholders hope to soon announce to tackle child labor more effectively. These initiatives aim to raise farmer incomes, improve education and nutrition for children, upgrade sanitation and water, and expand child protection services. The meeting will review lessons learned from existing industry initiatives such as CocoaAction, said Ferguson in his blogpost.
“Berlin, itself represents change, the wall came down 30 years ago [November 9] and that is the sort of overarching reason why we're there and change is very much going to be a theme of the meeting. What happened 30 years ago came from persistence and hard work and we're working to achieve a similar change in the cocoa society.
“It's also a very big market for chocolate and government in Berlin is very important as is the German initiative for sustainable cocoa.
He explained that one of the great things about WCF partnership meetings, which make them different from other industry events, is that sustainability in the cocoa sector has always been a priority, and Ferguson said his hope is that partners come away from this meeting with a “a renewed and strengthened commitment to sustainability and the problems of poverty and child labor.”
The World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting, supported by lead sponsor Mars Wrigley, takes place on October 23-24 in Berlin.
“I think the way the industry is going, the way that sustainability in the supply chain is going, is to try and get a broader partnership approach to some of these deep-seated, intractable problems,” Ferguson told ConfectioneryNews.