Mondelēz plants more than 2.2m non-cocoa trees to help restore ecosystems on cocoa farms

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Mondelēz is a pioneer of the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) offering farmers economic incentives for environmental action. Pic: Mondelēz Int
Mondelēz is a pioneer of the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) offering farmers economic incentives for environmental action. Pic: Mondelēz Int

Related tags Mondelez International

In its latest Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) Annual Report, Mondelēz International said it has distributed 712,771 trees across Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the from October 2019 to September 2020, with a total of 975,848 trees planted as part of its CFI commitment since 2018, bringing the global total to 2.2 million trees.

The confectionery giant has been one of the driving forces behind cocoa sustainability over the past decade and was one of the founders, three years ago, of the CFI, a coalition of 35 leading cocoa and chocolate companies and the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana that have joined together in to end deforestation and restore forest areas.

Carbon measurements

Mondelēz International has also announced a new partnership with sustainability consultancy South Pole to develop a tool to estimate the possible carbon impact of its cocoa sustainability programme, ​Cocoa Life, in relation to interventions on farm and forests.

 The tool is in its initial stages but Cedric van Cutsem, Associate Director Cocoa Life, Operations, Mondelēz International said the company is encouraged by the tool’s detailed analysis of the environment so far.

We need to measure whatever we do because it's only by measuring that we can understand the impact we have. And now, carbon being so important to us with our public commitments, it was critical to start to work on a system with a tool that would allow us to translate the Cocoa Life interventions into carbon measurement.

Our Initial findings are very encouraging so far, but we thought it was still a bit too early to share because it still requires a bit of peer review - and we would really appreciate, inputs from any stakeholders who can come and help us improve the model​.”

The new tool will assesses the carbon reductions that have been delivered historically, as well as the ones that can be achieved over the mid-to-long-term and uses farm-level activities, changes over a period of time, and outcomes specific to cocoa farming to estimate greenhouse gas (GHG)/carbon impacts.

Cedric Van Cutsem 750
Pic: Mondelez Int

We need to measure whatever we do because it's only by measuring that we can understand the impact we have -- Cedric van Cutsem

In its report, Mondelēz says: “Our initial estimations show promising signs of our programme having had the potential to reduce carbon emissions, and we’re currently validating these findings. The calculations look at 2018 to 2020 and include the measurement of both carbon reduction and removal interventions​.”

Dominique Gangneux, Principal Scientist, South Pole said: “We have partnered with Mondelez International to help rapidly scale up the company’s carbon impact and the value its Cocoa Life Programme creates through interventions at farm, community, and forest levels​.”

Payment for Environmental Services (PES)

Another area pioneered by Mondelēz is the Payment for Environmental Services (PES) offering farmers economic incentives for environmental action.

After some initial tweaks, van Cutsem said that in 2020, Mondelēz got to a place where it is partnering with Barry Callebaut to do more PES to support agroforestry in Cote d’Ivoire.

We also secured some funding from Partnership for Forest to help us accelerate in 2021, which is also a strong signal of trust we're getting from other stakeholders to continue and we have started to roll out PES in Ghana and, and even in Indonesia​.”

Farm productivity

The CFI progress report states that productivity on a pilot project on Cooca Life farms in Ghana has risen to 618 kg cocoa per hectare from baseline value of 349 kg per hectare. However, the report says not all farms have responded equally and the company is trying to understand why some farms did not improve as expected.

Van Cutsem believes that after spending time supporting and training farmers and working with them on the ground the one-size-fits-all approach does not work.

You cannot train a farmer if he has a 2-hectares plot and a baseline productivity of 300 kilos per hectare, you cannot train that farmer the same way that you train his neighbour who might have 6 hectares and a productivity of 600 kilos.

"As an industry it took us to a debate around the need to have more profiling or more segmentation of farmers and really adapt the training in the content and the services to the right farmers.

"That's something we've been working on for quite some time and we also innovated through this Targeted GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) approach that we mention in the CFI report.”

Cocoa Life

On Cocoa Life's targets, van Cutsem remains upbeat:  “Beyond the financial investment which we committed to … we did say we will also reach 200,000 smallholders across the six countries​.

We're now around 180,000, we still have two years to go, so I'm really confident, we will meet that target, maybe even exceed it, I hope.

"We also said, we will then have an impact on 1 million people considering an average household of five people per farmer. I'm confident we'll get there.

"The other public commitment we have is that by 2025 will have our chocolate source as Cocoa Life … we are already very close to 70% and I'm very confident. We'll get there by 2025.”

In the foreword to the report, Cathy Pieters, Senior Director Sustainable Ingredients & Cocoa Life, at Mondelēz International said: “We believe conserving the land and forests is a promise to future generations. 2020 spotlighted the interconnectivity between the health of people and planet, and the world took note of the crucial role forests play in protecting both, today and in the future, by acting as a first line of defence against climate change and future pandemics. It is this interconnectivity that cements the importance of holistic strategies. Our cocoa sustainability programme, Cocoa Life, which ensures our chocolate’s essential ingredient is made right, has always been built on a holistic approach​.”

Pieters said in her foreword that the key learning from the past 12 months is that to “truly reduce deforestation in the cocoa supply chain and tackle climate change, all private and public sector actors must work together …. We will continue to invest into innovative programmes and partnerships to ensure we tackle deforestation and conserve and restore forests in cocoa-growing areas​”.

  • Listen to the full interview with Cedric on our special exclusive podcast.
  •  Read the full report here​.

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