Chocoa highlights growing movement for private label cocoa sustainability

Hopes of driving a greater number of private label confectionery operations to actively engage with cocoa sustainability programmes for confectionery were raised by Cemoi and Tony’s Chocolonely, as part of Chocoa 2021, reports Neill Barston.

The second day of the virtual conference, which has this year migrated online amid the pandemic from its usual physical event in Amsterdam, explored a number of key themes impacting on the future viability of the wider global confectionery industry.

Following a session that highlighted urgent need for sector support for cocoa farmers to explore crop diversification to supplement their existing incomes to ensure a living wage from farming, a second discussion panel placed a focus supply chain collaborations with retailers.

As the organisers of Chocoa noted, supermarkets have a potentially major role to play in enhancing progress on sustainability measures including tackling child labour, community support and addressing deforestation through the policies they accept for sourcing ‘own brand’ confectionery and snacks ranges.

The panel included Solomon Boateng, IMS Manager Risk & Certification at Kuapa Kokoo Farmers, who revealed that many sustainability programmes had appeared to workers as being overly prescriptive in terms of operating guidelines. He noted that one of the best approaches in his experience was enabling the farmers to identify for themselves what some of the biggest production challenges were, which gave them more of a sense of investment in such programmes.

A key presentation was made by Antoine Resk Diomande, head of corporate and social responsibility at Cemoi Group), who explained the company’s extensive policies regarding engaging with sustainability.

He explained that the French based business had taken on a number of key measures with regards to tackling key sustainability issues of deforestation and child labour, which it has recently underpinned with a new partnership with the International Cocoa Organisation, which he said it intended to extend. This included providing youth training in agricultural practices against what he described as apparent declining interest in young people entering the cocoa and wider farming sector.

On its work with private label firms and supermarkets, he said: “Private label can be a catalyst of sustainability joint initiatives. What we have noticed from our customers is that there is a progressive switch from conventional standard ranges of cocoa, to ones that are more sustainable and have deforestation risk assessment, which is something that is very impactful and challenging for us.

“They are also integrating more sustainability topics like waste management and sustainable packaging. So what we are seeing in the past year that there’s a stronger commitment from private label on sustainability,” explained Diomande.

He noted that another notable sustainability scheme was also in motion for the business, with plans from next year to transport up to 12,000 tonnes of cocoa from Ivory Coast to France via sailboat as part of further eco-friendly measures forming part of its Transparence Cacao commitments.

The session also featured Joke Aerts, who is leading Dutch-based sustainability-focused chocolate business Tony Chocolonely’s open chain project encouraging brands to sourced ethical against a series of core principles supporting farmers.

Explaining that the business was founded on a mission to raise awareness of issues within the cocoa supply chain including child labour and farmer poverty, she believed that private label businesses had a notable role to play.

She said: “We know what the issues are, and what the interventions are and all use similar wording around mapping and child labour monitoring and remediation systems, but what we need is for brands to take responsibility for what they can contribute in this and collaborating on these initiatives.

“Because if everyone does their own programmes individually, this can be very confusing for the cocoa co-operatives,” she explained, noting that there had been a lot of voluntary protocols within the industry, including additional recent initiatives including Beyond Chocolate (Belgian industry initiative) and GISCO (German scheme), but said the ‘wave of change’ on sustainability had not yet been achieved, which would require greater combined action.







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