Former Barry Callebaut CEO Antoine de Saint Affrique returns to its board, as company presses sustainability targets

The Barry Callebaut group’s annual general meeting has seen a return for former CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique as a board member of the company, and the re-election of Patrick De Maeseneire as Chairman, writes Neill Barston.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, it was held online, with voting rights being exercised by submitting instructions in writing or electronically to the independent proxy, with a total of 5,177 shareholders exercising their votes, representing 4,050,747 shares and equaling 73.8% of the issued share capital.

Notably, all Board members, namely Patrick De MaeseneireMarkus R. NeuhausFernando AguirreAngela Wei DongNicolas JacobsElio Leoni ScetiTim Minges and Yen Yen Tan were reelected for another term of office lasting one year. The shareholders also approved the proposed payout of a dividend of CHF 28.00 per share. This represents an increase of +27.3% versus prior year and corresponds to a payout ratio of 40% of the net profit. The dividend will be paid to shareholders on or around January 6, 2022.

The meeting follows the publication of the company’s fifth Forever Chocolate progress report, highlighting progress made against its core goals of helping lift 500,000 farmers out of poverty by 2025, which is also a target date for eradicating child labour within its supply chains. The same date has also been named as a target for becoming carbon and forest neutral.

As the business noted, its data from 2020/21 revealed that it has continued to scale up its efforts to deliver tangible impact on its sustainability targets, including having assisted a total of 214,584 cocoa farmers estimated to be out of poverty in our direct supply chain, including core markets of Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The company explained that its child labor monitoring and remediation system now covers 237 farmer groups, including 220,878 farmers in West Africa. There has also been a significant growth in its Cocoa Horizons programme linked to its Forever Chocolate scheme on sustainable sourcing, with the premiums generating over CHF 28.4 million in funds, an increase of +63% compared to prior year.

Furthermore, there has been a 10% reduction of Land Use Change (LUC) from the impact of cocoa due to its efforts in traceability and sourcing, as well as 43% of its products sold now containing 100% sustainable cocoa or chocolate.

Farmer poverty
The company said a number of key lessons had been learned in how to tackle farmer poverty in the past five years, including that farm-specific support is more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. In 2020/21 a total of 125,593 cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador and Indonesia received Farm Services support from the business.

In addition, Barry Callebaut said that its  measurement of progress against a target of helping 500,000 cocoa farmers it is using as a starting point the International Poverty Line definition of extreme poverty of USD 1.90/day. It is aiming to place farmers on a trajectory towards a living income and beyond, through increased productivity and income diversification. In 2020/21 we estimate 214,584 cocoa farmers (+50%) in its supply chain are out of poverty.

In the interconnected major issue of child labour in cocoa supply chains, the company said that in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the solution lies not in ending the sourcing from these regions, but in assessing, monitoring and remediating on the ground the risk of children becoming involved in child labour.

Consequently, the company added that it continues to Therefore, we continue to monitor reported cases and rigorously and its remediation systems grew +116% to cover 237 farmer groups, including 220,878 farmers in Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Cameroon.

In addition, 25,486 (+412%) of the reported child labor cases we found in previous years, are now under remediation. The percentage of the farmer groups we directly source from with whom we undertake child labor monitoring and remediation activities is 61%

Since the commencement of Forever Chocolate in 2016, we were able to reduce our overall corporate carbon intensity per tonne of product by more than -17%. In addition, we also made outstanding progress in 2020/21 to reduce the carbon emissions caused by Land Use Change (LUC). Through the scaling of our traceability and sourcing efforts, we reduced the LUC impact from cocoa cultivation by over -10%.

A key component of evaluating our progress toward becoming forest positive is biodiversity, which includes both on-farm and off-farm efforts, such as soil regeneration and the creation of carbon sinks. Through improving on-farm ecosystems, the company noted that cocoa farmers can reduce the use of pesticides and fungicides.

In addition, cocoa grown in the shade is linked to increased biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and nutrient retention in the soil. This year, we increased our planting capacity and are now planting over 35 trees per hectare, such as teak, mahogany and sejula, in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. This ramp up also aligns with the requirements of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), of which we have been a founding signatory in 2017. Due to our tree planting activities, we account for a total of 240,000 tCO2e reduction this year alone, according to the Gold Standard Value Chain Intervention methodology.

Noting progress to date, Pablo Perversi, Chief Innovation, Sustainability & Quality Officer; said:  “In 2020/21, we have continued to scale digital innovations, created a novel approach to measure carbon emissions, increased our individualised tailored support to cocoa farmers and developed a new approach to tackling child labor. Our application of leading innovative solutions is clearly paying off,”  Global Head of Gourmet.

Commenting on the report, Peter Boone, CEO, noted that it had made some significant inroads, with the company determined to target its core aims over the next few years. He said: “This year, we celebrate the 5th anniversary of Forever Chocolate and I am extremely proud of the progress that we have made since 2016, creating tangible impact on the ground. Our outstanding achievements are only made possible with the expertise and dedication of our employees, partners and customers. I would like to warmly thank them for their commitment and invite other stakeholders to join us in this journey to make sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025.”

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