Barry Callebaut ‘sharpens’ its Forever Chocolate sustainability plan

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Barry Callebaut's cocoa beans are collected from one of its cooperatives in Cote d'Ivoire Photography: Nana Kofi Acquah © Barry Callebaut
Barry Callebaut's cocoa beans are collected from one of its cooperatives in Cote d'Ivoire Photography: Nana Kofi Acquah © Barry Callebaut

Related tags Barry callebaut Cocoa Sustainability Chocolate

Barry Callebaut Group has announced significant changes to its Forever Chocolate sustainability programme adding additional targets and sharpening existing ones as it looks to make sustainable chocolate the norm beyond 2025.

Launched in 2016 with a set of ambitious targets for 2025, some of which are still expected to be met, the reworked Forever Chocolate initiative sets new measurable targets for 2030 and beyond, the Group said in a webinar launch today.

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Photography: Nana Kofi Acquah © Barry Callebaut

Steven Retzlaff, President Global Cocoa, said: “Our Forever Chocolate targets are dynamic by design. The requirements of a sustainable cocoa and chocolate supply chain are constantly evolving and transforming.

Plus, since the start of Forever Chocolate, we continuously generated new insights through data analysis and engagement with experts.

We, therefore wanted to add fresh ambition to our Forever Chocolate plan with more focus on impact on the ground beyond compliance, on supporting and empowering beyond training, and on a systemic approach beyond individual intervention. This is why we have sharpened our existing Forever Chocolate targets and added additional targets extending our impact beyond 2025​.” 

We are maintaining an accountability of what we need to do by 2025, we are not dropping those targets, we are simply redefining [the plan] -- Nicolas Mounard, VP Sustainability and farming, at Barry Callebaut

With new EU legislation on deforestation, due to come into effect later this year, the Forever Chocolate refresh is timely. For one, given the scale and influence of the world’s leading supplier and manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa products, it is likely to be closely watched by other chocolate companies and organisations in the industry as pressure mounts for supply chains to become fully traceable and transparent.

In supporting the new outline document Barry Callebaut now claims that for its mission to make ‘sustainable chocolate the norm’ a reality, public intervention is required to drive structural change beyond the Group’s direct supply chain.

At a specially convened press conference in Cote d’Ivoire last month (attended by this publication) to preview Forever Chocolate’s new aims, Nicolas Mounard, VP Sustainability and farming, at Barry Callebaut, was quick to reject the accusation that targets set seven years to make ‘sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025’ ago have failed to be met.

We are maintaining an accountability of what we need to do by 2025, we are not dropping those targets, we are simply redefining [the plan].

“The ‘norm’ is changing​,” he said. “Making chocolate the norm in 2030, will not look like making [sustainable] chocolate the norm in 2025. We are redefining the norm to another level.

If you take the climate agenda, for example, and see what we are proposing for 2030, that is a change of the norm and more ambitious in its vision in terms of the business needing to decarbonize itself and is not a vision we would have had in 2016​.”

In a statement announcing the fresh ambitions, Barry Callebaut said: “An enabling policy environment and government action in origin countries is essential to address the issue of traceability, rural infrastructure development and proper enforcement of national policies and legislation.”

Mounard said it will continue to engage with governments in producing countries as well as consumer countries and Forever Chocolate’s reset will now move from remediation to prevention of child labour cases in its supply chain as it looks to 2030 while continuing to remediate existing cases it has discovered so far.

In a webinar for today’s official launch of the new Forever Chocolate, Chris Vincent, President of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), gave his support for the ongoing initiative.

Speaking on the wider issues of sustainability issues in the global cocoa chain he said that the three key issues that affect the industry are: farmer poverty; stopping deforestation and promoting reforestation; and combatting child labour.

He said that for collective action to work, key lessons have been learned and the WCF’s CocoaAction initiative brings companies like Barry Callebaut together in a non-competitive environment to promote partnerships.

But he said there needs to be a move from the focus on short-term challenges, with a need to align industry goals to support [West African origin] government plans with Sustainable Development Goals in the African Cocoa Standards initiative.

Mounard said the Group now has an ambitious vision for the way it implements targets and leads in terms of programming strategy while being vocal in the industry in terms of what works, and what doesn’t work.

Barry Callebaut is clear that while [cocoa] price is one element of the equation, what is needed to alleviate farmer poverty is a radical transformation of the farming model.

The size of the farm is a key factor to increase sustainable yield, providing there is a decent level of investment on the farm​,” Mounard said. “We want to have a discussion on price that involves all stakeholders, we need to look at the export price, not just the farmgate price, and see what part of that goes back to the farmers."

Human Rights

Human Rights terminology has also changed to expand and broaden the scope, acknowledging the distinction between child labour and forced labour. In the sharpening of targets, Barry Callebaut has stated that by 2025 its entire supply chain will be covered by Human Rights Due Diligence, and by 2030 the farming communities it sources from will be empowered to protect child rights

Mounard said he believed that a lot of the issues affecting cocoa’s sustainability issues come down to the level of farm investment.

There has been a definite shift in terms of approach and philosophy. Knowledge is not a problem – if you base your approach on training or demo plots the underlining assumption is that farmers do not know how to grow cocoa​ … we want less training and more doing, on the basis that we know farmers know how to grow cocoa very well.”

He said that according to Barry Callebaut’s internal data, the level of investment [in West Africa] is 100$ per hectare, which he described as “a minimal amount of cash - so there is under-investment in the farm per year. Poverty reduction is a combination of yield and size of the farm – an increase in yield can only be driven by an increase in investment in the farm.”

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Cocoa beans in a Barry Calllebaut warehouse in Cote d'Ivoire are checked before shipping. Photography: Nana Kofi Acquah © Barry Callebaut

Forever Chocolate’s achievements to date include:

• Prospering Farmers: Almost 215,000 cocoa farmers were lifted out of poverty.

• Zero Child Labour: 81% of farmer groups Barry Callebaut directly sources from have systems in place to prevent, monitor and remediate child labor.

• Thriving Nature: A reduction of overall carbon intensity per tonne of product by more than 18% since 2016 and traceability established for almost 80% of farms in Barry Callebaut’s direct supply chain.

• Sustainable Ingredients: one out of two of all the products sold contain 100% sustainable chocolate or cocoa.

Forever Chocolate 2030

Moving forward, The Forever Chocolate plan will now focus on four pillars, addressing the material challenges in the cocoa and chocolate supply chain:

1 Prospering Farmers – from less training and more doing

Barry Callebaut remains on track to have lifted more than 500,000 cocoa farmers out of poverty by 2025. To this existing commitment, the Group is adding that by 2030 it will have mobilized public and private stakeholders to collectively support and implement a transformative cocoa farming model generating living income.

The main struggle of cocoa farmers is access to investments in their farms. This is why Barry Callebaut shifts its focus going forward from training, to providing input support. This ranges from subsidized soil inputs, planting material, to financial support for third-party labor services and additional premiums. Improving their quality yield per hectare remains key to lift smallholder cocoa farmers out of poverty and put them on a trajectory towards a living income.

2 Human Rights – adding empowerment to remediation

This will require both private and public intervention to build the enabling infrastructure, foremost the establishment of Child Protection Committees at cocoa farmer community level and ensuring access to quality education.

3 Thriving Nature – Aligning with global efforts to cap global warming

To ensure better alignment with the emission reduction trajectory of the Paris Climate Agreement, Barry Callebaut will focus increasingly on insetting CO2 through agroforestry, moving away from offsetting. This implies that by 2030, Barry Callebaut will have decarbonized its footprint in line with global efforts to cap global warming at 1,5 degrees. Following this ambitious trajectory, Barry Callebaut will be a net zero company by 2050. In addition to its decarbonization efforts, the Group maintains its target to be forest positive by 2025.

4 Sustainable Ingredients – reinforced commitment to transparency

By 2030 Barry Callebaut will have 100% certified or verified cocoa and ingredients in all of its products, traceable to farm level. Establishing industry-wide sustainability standards and programs is essential for the sustainable sourcing of raw materials, as certification is only the starting point. This is why the Group has been working in the past five years both with suppliers and industry programs to define and implement sustainability standards for all of the ingredients Barry Callebaut sources, including for dairy, palm oil, coconut and nuts.

Wrapping up the relaunch, Retzlaff added: “It is clear that we cannot reach these targets on our own. For Forever Chocolate to become a reality, we need public intervention to drive structural change beyond our direct supply chain​.”

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