Exclusive: Aldo Cristiano, Caobisco president, discusses sustainability ahead of World Confectionery Conference
Aldo Cristiano speaking last year at our debut WCC conference, which took place online amid the pandemic
As the newly re-elected president of CAOBISCO, the European chocolate, biscuit and confectionery trade association of Europe, Aldo Cristiano has a considerable array of industry tasks to address. Editor Neill Barston quizzes him on key issues of sustainability in supply chains, due diligence reforms and his return to our major industry event – with registration still open via our website for our key event on 9 September in Brussels.
Q: How does it feel to have been recently re-elected as president of CAOBISCO?
A: I am honoured that CAOBISCO members have given me the trust for another term. It makes me proud to be the representative of such an active association. I will consider my second term in office as a mandate to continue the transformation our association has started two years ago, to meet the expectations of its members and ever increasing societal and environmental changes. But also to continue to build a correct and robust associative structure in order to strengthen our industry’s resilience to face current and future challenges at EU level.
Q: Twelve months on from your first appearance on our digital version of the World Confectionery Conference, have conditions improved with regards to sustainability in our sector?
As you know, many CAOBISCO members have and are, via private initiatives, working individually to improve sustainability by trying to empower for instance cocoa farmers and their communities to improve their income, become more productive and climate-resilient, protect the environment, combat deforestation, and respect human rights.
But we believe that these initiatives need to be accompanied by due diligence systems to identify and address social and environmental risks and impacts, seeking greater transparency along the supply chain. This is why we have been active participants in Commission initiatives such as the recently launched Cocoa Talks, in the context of the EU’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, the discussions around the proposal for a Regulation on deforestation-free products published recently or the discussions around due diligence to engage and collectively work together with EU authorities and supply chain stakeholders to find adequate solutions for a sustainable sourcing of our commodities.
Q: What other measures do you believe could make an impact on delivering sustainability goals?
Many CAOBISCO members have been engaging in concrete actions on the ground for more sustainable supply chains, notably via private initiatives, to empower cocoa farmers, while ensuring decent living incomes, climate resilience, environment and human rights protection. We have already seen substantial changes, for example through the Cocoa Forest Initiative who stated a couple of days ago that agroforestry and enhanced traceability were progressing in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
The industry has also been committed to eradicate child labour and set up robust due diligence systems. These initiatives still need to be accompanied and strengthened through a harmonised and horizontal approach, e.g., currently being proposed at the EU level for example, and to make sure that identified social and environmental risks and impacts are addressed, seeking greater transparency along the supply chain and reaching the so-called level playing field.
Recent progress and ongoing discussions show that improving sustainability is possible but requires to join public and private forces together. CAOBISCO has been active in recent Commission initiatives such as the Cocoa Talks and New Alliance, in the context of the EU’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative. There is willingness around the EC proposal for a Regulation on deforestation-free products and the EC proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence to collectively work together with EU authorities and supply chain stakeholders to find adequate solutions for a sustainable sourcing of our commodities.
Q: We have reported on the EU due diligence legislation on deforestation and human rights – how much of a difference will this make in your view?
CAOBISCO welcomes the objectives of both Regulation on deforestation-free products and Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence that will create the enabling legal conditions for a harmonised approach on responsible and sustainable businesses. These legal frameworks will ensure a level playing field for all actors in order to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain and a set of harmonised standards of human rights and environment protection.
CAOBISCO is now looking at implementation and practical aspects of these EU legislations and how the industry could support achieving these ambitious goals: complying with Due Diligence obligations foreseen under both EU legislations may be challenging, but our industry remains committed to supporting enhanced traceability and capacity building in producing countries. In addition, technical and financial public support to establish national traceability systems at producing country level is also needed to ensure that smallholder farmers remain included in supply chains entering the EU market.
Q: You have enjoyed a wide-ranging career so far in our industries, what technologies and developments have impressed you the most?
What impresses me the most is the creation and implementation of traceability systems within a very complex supply chain with millions of farms and smallholders. (Polygon-mapping and Geolocation) as well as data management and analytics are paramount challenges, but possible and realis8ed by some supply chain actors.
Q: For sustainability within supply chains, one of the most important actions observers have noted is the need for greater collaborative action. Have you seen improvements in the way companies are working together? What more can be done to bring about further positive change?
We have always promoted discussions and cooperation with our supply chain stakeholders to work towards constructive and practically feasible solutions that benefits all. Not only do our companies cooperate and exchange but so do our national associations via for instance the national sustainable cocoa initiatives (ISCOs). This is absolutely essential. The whole value chain needs to be collectively engaged from farm to fork. Like Aristotle said: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.