Bonne, Bonn: Leading Chocolate-Makers Avert Achoc-alypse at COP23


Mars chocolate brands

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, this week saw the world’s CPG  giants band together to ensure sustainable production in Western Africa’s main cocoa-producing regions, agreeing with other companies to the World Cocoa Foundation’s Frameworks for Action initiative to curb deforestation and protect national parks from illegal cocoa production as well as develop alternative livelihoods for affected small farmers in those markets.

On November 16, 35 of the world’s leading chocolate-making companies—including Mars, Hershey, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Cargill and General Mills, accounting for two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply—pledged to protect the top key cocoa-producing regions. Their vow: to take actions and commit to standards to eliminate deforestation and restore forest areas in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

The set of public-private actions represent unprecedented commitments on forest protection and restoration, and sustainable cocoa production and farmer livelihoods. These actions, which are aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, will play a crucial role in sequestering carbon stocks and thereby addressing global and local climate change.

The signatories committed to using 100% sustainably-sourced cocoa—one of its 10 priority ingredients—by 2020. They’re also using their clout with suppliers and governments to lobby for change, and show stakeholders, employees and customers that compassion and heart are vital ingredients, too. The goal is to produce more cocoa on less land; and to engage farmers through community development

General Mills, for example, is supporting its broader corporate responsibility commitment by becoming a signatory to the World Cocoa Foundation’s Frameworks for Action announced this week in Bonn, one of the goals of which is to help poor farmers find alternative—and sustainable—livelihoods instead of going into forests in those two countries and cutting down trees to grow cocoa.

“The Frameworks for Action,” said Richard Scobey, president of the not-for-profit World Cocoa Foundation, “signed by visionary companies including General Mills, protect and restore forests that have been degraded, accelerate investment in agricultural productivity and engage communities about the importance of this work to their long-term wellbeing.”

John Church, General Mills’ chief supply officer, stated that the company recognizes “there are systemic labor issues in the cocoa supply chain, and we understand it will take industry-wide collaboration to make improvements.” (See more company comments below.)

WCF’s 100-plus members include farm-level input providers, financial institutions, cocoa processors, chocolate makers and manufacturers, farmer cooperatives, cocoa trading companies, ports, warehousing companies and retailers.

Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, for their part, plan to introduce a differentiated approach for improved management of forest reserves, based on the level of degradation of the forests. Up-to-date maps on forest cover and land-use, as well as socio-economic data on cocoa farmers and their communities will be developed and publicly shared by the governments. The chocolate and cocoa industry agree to put in place verifiable monitoring systems for traceability from farm to the first purchase point for their own purchases of cocoa, and will work with the governments to ensure an effective national framework for traceability for all traders in the supply chain.

COP 23 World Cocoa Foundation agreement signing 16 November 2017

Companies that have so far committed to the Frameworks include Barry Callebaut; Blommer Chocolate Company; Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate; CEMOI; Cococo Chocolatiers; ECOM Group; Ferrero; General Mills, Inc.; Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.; Guittard Chocolate Company; The Hershey Company; Mars Wrigley Confectionary; Meiji Co., Ltd.; Mondelēz International; Nestlé; Olam Cocoa; Sainsbury’s; Toms Group; Touton; Tree Global; and J.H. Whittaker & Sons Ltd. Additional companies are soon expected to announce their commitment to the Frameworks.

Comments from the CPG signatories’ executives:

“Eliminating deforestation from the cocoa supply chain requires a joint action of government, NGOs and industry to tackle its root causes, be it cocoa farmer poverty, climate change or pollution. These Frameworks for Action are a great step forward and give confidence that we will rapidly see measurable progress on the ground.” — Antoine de Saint-Affrique, Chief Executive Officer, Barry Callebaut

“We recognize that the cultivation of agricultural commodities, including cocoa, has been a driver of accelerated deforestation and forest degradation over the past 50 years in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Building on our industry’s unprecedented commitment to cocoa sustainability, today’s announcement acknowledges the shared responsibility and collective power of strong public-private partnerships to address today’s global challenges. Our family business is proud to be a signatory of this watershed initiative.” — Peter Blommer, Chief Executive Officer, Blommer Chocolate Company

“This could be a turning point for deforestation in West Africa, as the agreements announced today set a new course of action for protecting forests in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The journey will not be simple, but we will make progress more quickly by working together. Cargill is committed to driving sustainability in our supply chain while partnering with industry and government to find sector-wide solutions.” — Harold Poelma, President, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate

“As the leading French chocolate manufacturer, our strong commitment to protect forests in cocoa-producing countries echoes President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge on climate change, ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’. Through our involvement in ‘Cocoa Friends of the Forests’ initiative as well as IDH’s ISLA project, CEMOI has pioneered cocoa agroforestry in Côte d’Ivoire and has supported the preservation of the remaining primary forest that is found in the country’s Taï National Park.” — Patrick Poirrier, Chief Executive Officer, CEMOI

“We are excited by the Frameworks for Action and eager to begin. What a privilege for us—as a comparatively small chocolate and confectionery company, operating far away from the source countries of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana—to have this opportunity to commit alongside key stakeholders to our own meaningful and transparent action in support of forests, sustainable cocoa, and local community engagement. There is a role here for everybody who is willing to commit. The cocoa industry depends upon West Africa, and we—all of us—depend upon the same planet.” — Brian Beck, President, Cococo Chocolatiers Inc.

“The ECOM Group is working increasingly with partners, specialists and governments in countries where the Group sources agricultural commodities to seek to ensure the reduction and eventual elimination of deforestation that might result from the production of such commodities. In West Africa this involves working with, and supporting the livelihoods of, smallholder farmers while recognizing the importance of involving a broader set of industry and supply chain partners including the governments and policy makers to ensure the proper design and implementation of solutions to the issue of deforestation. The ECOM Group is committed to working to this end and is proud to be a participant in the Frameworks for Action for Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.” — ECOM

“Endorsing the Frameworks for Action is a further significant step of our collective journey that started with the signing of the Statement of Intent. I truly welcome this concrete agreement aimed at ending deforestation and restoring forest areas. Ferrero is committed to working on the challenges to end deforestation in the cocoa sector, as well as implement key principles and strategies that underpin socially and environmentally sustainable cocoa production.” — Aldo Uva, Chief Operating Officer, Ferrero

“Deforestation is a significant challenge, but by aligning and working together, we can help put a stop to it and positively impact climate change by rehabilitating the land. We also recognize there are systemic labor issues in the cocoa supply chain, and we understand it will take industry-wide collaboration to make improvements. Having the national and local governments, who are key to addressing the issues, at the table from the beginning is key.” — John Church, Chief Supply Chain Officer, General Mills

“Guittard is pleased to join the Framework for Action of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative led by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU), in partnership with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. By working together with local governments, industry members and environmental organizations, we are able to address important issues like deforestation, protecting remaining forest cover and national parks, while respecting farmer livelihoods. Through our Cultivate Better platform, Guittard is committed to quality, leadership and building the relationships that can bring about positive change.” — Gary Guittard, Chief Executive Officer, Guittard Chocolate Company

“Cocoa is critical to our business and we know how important cocoa farming is in creating jobs, reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of local farming communities. At the same time, there is a critical need to balance positive social progress with protecting the world’s tropical forests and promoting conservation and biodiversity. Hershey is committed to this new framework as it sets a clear path for all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), companies in the cocoa supply chain and the governments, to work together to eliminate deforestation in the West African countries.” — Michele Buck, President and CEO, The Hershey Company

“Mars believes in a mutual relationship with the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire with whom we rely on for part of our cocoa supply. Together with industry partners and in line with our sustainability commitments, we work towards ensuring that the cocoa used in our chocolate products doesn’t destroy forests and we are progressing with our ultimate goal of more cocoa from less land.” — John Ament, Global Vice President Cocoa, Mars Wrigley Confectionery

“Meiji agrees on the Frameworks to end deforestation and restore forest areas and that it is a vital role for the cocoa industry. The top priority of the Frameworks is the protection and restoration of forest, while seeking sustainable agricultural production and increased farmer income. It might not be easy to clear the hurdle, but we’re a good and strong team that consists of companies and governments. We believe we can get a good result.” — Kazuo Kawamura, President and Representative Director, Meiji Co., Ltd.

“We call on all actors to implement the Cocoa & Forests Initiative with urgency. In particular, we must build a clear plan to source more cocoa from less land, while ensuring cocoa from deforested land does not reach our direct or indirect supply chains. This requires action by the private sector, as well as enforcement and social intervention by governments. We are determined to help make this initiative a success and to continue to engage our consumers in their love for chocolate made with sustainable and forest-friendly cocoa.” — Hubert Weber, Executive Vice President and President, Mondelēz Europe

“Deforestation is a major issue in cocoa-producing countries that requires strong and collective action to address. We believe the Framework for Action proposed by the Initiative will play a significant role in delivering sector-wide change, benefiting communities and the natural environment. Nestlé is looking forward to playing an active role in making this happen.” — Sandra Martinez, Global Head of Confectionery, Nestlé

“The Cocoa & Forests Initiative is a valuable government and industry led partnership, driving positive change from the farmer to the consumer. In particular, the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have shown true leadership – in recognizing the problem; creating the right environment for businesses like Olam to engage; and protecting the future of their country’s forests, farmers and cocoa production.” — Gerard Manley, Chief Executive Officer, Olam Cocoa

“Cocoa production and sustainable forest management are closely linked, and strongly influence each other. The challenge is now to turn the vicious cycle of environmental degradation and low productivity into a virtuous one of sound environmental management and highly productive systems. The challenge is great, as is Touton’s commitment to contribute to addressing it. ” — Patrick de Boussac, Chief Executive Officer, Touton

“Whittaker’s is proud to be a signatory to the Framework for Action to address deforestation because it is so comprehensive and sets out tangible steps for companies and governments to be measured against. We also welcome its focus on working with the predominantly small cocoa farmers to protect their livelihoods through better resource use, alongside specific forest protection and restoration activity, which best positions this initiative for lasting success. Our support builds on Whittaker’s existing commitments to sustainable sourcing, and we welcome the accountability that the Framework for Action will demand of the whole industry.” — Matt Whittaker, Chief Sales Officer, J.H. Whittaker & Sons Ltd.