Sustainability

Interview: Cathy Pieters, director of Mondelēz's Cocoa Life program

By Anthony Myers contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cathy Pieters, director of Mondelēz’s Cocoa Life sustainability program. Pic: Barry Callebaut
Cathy Pieters, director of Mondelēz’s Cocoa Life sustainability program. Pic: Barry Callebaut

Related tags: Mondelez International, Cocoa, snacking

Following the release of the confectionery giant’s Snacking Made Right Report, Pieters discusses life in lockdown, how the group is looking after its farmers on the ground and why 100% sustainable cocoa is achievable.

For some companies, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) policies may have slipped down the list of priorities during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, but not for Mondelēz International, which released its Snacking Made Right report​ earlier this month.

As we collectively manage the global impact of COVID-19, now more than ever is the time for companies to do what’s right and drive sustainable business growth at scale​,” said Dirk Van de Put, chairman and CEO of Mondelēz.

Investment

Cocoa Life (launched in 2012) is Mondelēz’s global cocoa sustainability program with a commitment to invest $400m over 10 years to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers and improve the lives of more than 1 million people in cocoa communities.

Cathy Pieters is the director of Cocoa Life. In normal circumstances, she spends most of her time traveling, attending various high-level conferences or visiting communities in the field where Mondelēz sources its cocoa.

I'm also actually very relieved and proud to be part of a company where the CEO clearly is not going to take a position of going back to what was what we used to be - but is clearly open and ready to learn from this COVID moment and to create a new tomorrow

She spoke to ConfectioneryNews on Zoom from her home in Zurich, Switzerland, and says that one of the unexpected bonuses of the lockdown is that her team has become stronger as a family – “our Whatsapp group has never been as active​,” she says. Pieters also misses visiting farmers and staff on the ground, but receives daily updates. “But, yes I can’t wait for things to get back to normal​.”

Regarding coronavirus and its impact on the chocolate industry in general, Pieters says from a corporate perspective, it's been a very interesting time.

Within the company, we have been creating very human networks and contacts. Related to the work that we do specifically, I think there is even a stronger commitment from our CEO and our leadership team to commit to the sustainability work and wellbeing work that we set out that we have just published in our impact reports​.

I'm also actually very relieved and proud to be part of a company where the CEO clearly is not going to take a position of going back to what was what we used to be - but is clearly open and ready to learn from this COVID moment and to create a new tomorrow​.

That's something that I personally feel very passionate about. I mean we need to be doing things differently, and I'm also very pleased to hear that that is also what the company in general is looking at, so that's really good​."

Pieters said in Cocoa Life she has set up a ‘SWAT team’ to “really keep our finger on the pulse and know what's going on the ground. We have so many team members and at the program level we have been able to really quickly discuss with our implementing partners and see how we can redirect some of the investment that we planted in 2020 into supporting COVID initiatives – therefore directly supporting our partners on the ground​.”

2025 targets

A huge part of Mondelēz’s Snacking Made Right initiative relies on Cocoa Life’s continued efforts to reach its goal to source cocoa for all of the company’s chocolate brands from Cocoa Life by 2025.

Pieters says she is pleased with the results so far and claims the report exceeds its 2020 sustainability commitments and is on track for its 2025 targets.

Cocoa Life is part of the bigger Snacking Made Right agenda and what we call the ‘impact agenda’. What I think is a great move forward if I look back, just a few years ago​,” she says.

If you look at the connection between the right snacks at the right moment in the right way and how we build our different goals and the progress we're making there – and  in some cases, actually exceeding our 2020 goals, I think having all of the roadmaps in place to reach our 2025 goals is definitely a good place to be​.”

She says Mondelēz is conducting a lot of work around portion control and mindful snacking, and with company’s footprint across the globe, it can use its scale to drive change in terms of sustainable snacking and make a big impact.

Legislation

Cocoa is Mondelez’s biggest commodity and managing its supply chain is a huge responsibility if it wants to meet its targets. Not only is there pressure from consumers, but lawmakers in the EU and USA who are threatening the chocolate industry with legislation if it doesn’t do more to clean up its act and eradicate problem areas such as child labor and deforestation.

Pieters says Mondelēz would welcome a regulatory framework and it is actively calling on the EU to implement due diligence. “Together with a group of companies including Mars and Barry Callebaut we called on the European Union, which by far is the largest important consumer of cocoa in the world, to strengthen human rights and environmental due diligence requirement to create a level playing field and eliminate free riders and close the loopholes that we know today​.

“Legislation would also create a common framework through which all companies in the cocoa value chain would need to comply and it would normalize due diligence across the sector so we've been very much steering that.”

Pieters also says it's important not to look at any legislation in isolation. “It will be effective when it's coupled with a wider EU strategy that creates that enabling environment before we see progress​.”

Roadmap

With the full backing of the board and investors and, crucially, CEO Van de Put, Pieters says it has a roadmap in place to go at scale to source all of its cocoa from Cocoa Life by 2025.The Snacking made Right Report revealed that 63% of cocoa is currently sourced from the program.

Pieters says she is confident on reaching the 100% target and it is embedded in Mondelēz’s core business strategic planning.

She says achieving 63% sustainable cocoa in Mondelēz’s supply chain was a “big step up​” from the previous year and the company is very proud of improvement and “it helps to be confident about the 100% target, because we can see that we can make it happen​.”

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