A spokesperson for the WCF said it had to close registration early because of unexpectedly large demand for the sustainability organisation’s first in-person gathering in three years.
The event in Brussels from October 26-27 focused governments, cocoa-growing communities, civil society, and companies on raising farmer incomes, reducing child and forced labour, and reversing deforestation.
“We are excited to have had more than 350 stakeholders here with the shared ambition of creating a thriving and sustainable cocoa sector with the wellbeing of farmers and their families at the heart of everything we do,” said Chris Vincent, the Foundation’s new president.
Vincent was appointed as the WCF’s new president before the start of the conference, along with the election of Peter Boone, chief executive of Barry Callebaut, as the organization’s new chairman.
The Partnership Meeting made progress on company commitments to make their supply chains more traceable, a key step in eliminating human rights and environmental abuses.
For the first time, it heard from the chief executive officers of three WCF member companies – Boone, Mark Schneider of Nestlé, and Dirk van de Put of Mondelēz International -- on their sustainability ambitions.
The meeting was also addressed by the Vice President of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala, and by two European Commissioners, Didier Reynders and Jutta Urpilainen- who told the gathering about pending European Union legislation aimed at making supply chains more sustainable.
Attendees also heard from producer countries, including Indonesia. Musdhalifa Machmud, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, told the meeting that producer countries needed consumer countries to share in the cost of making cocoa more sustainable.
Vincent acknowledged that the absence of representatives from producer countries Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana was a missed opportunity for further progress but said the WCF, a group representing 80% of the industry, would persist in its efforts to work with the two producer countries. The aim of the boycott was to put pressure on European decision-makers working on new supply standards to prioritise cocoa farmers’ living standards.
“Our members will continue to focus investment through their company sustainability programmes, which seek to increase farmer income directly by rewarding sustainable farming practices,” said Vincent.
“They will engage with the working groups established by the Cote d’Ivoire Ghana Cocoa Initiative to develop an economic pact for sustainable cocoa.”