Ofi releases latest Cocoa Compass study, acknowledging industry scaling up requirements
Progress on key sustainability goals has been detailed by Ofi in its latest Cocoa Compass report addressing child labour monitoring, support for agricultural supply chains and action on deforestation, writes Neill Barston.
The group has acknowledged in its latest study, covering the pandemic years of 2020-2021, that considerable work on the ground within farming communities will be required in order to scale up actions to support key producing nations including Ghana and Ivory Coast.
As Confectionery Production has previously reported, a total of more than 1.5 million children within West Africa remain exposed to child labour within cooca supply chains, amid a backdrop of low farmer pay of under $1 a day in many instances, resulting in the region’s predominantly smallholder farming operations being largely unable to pay adult farm labourers.
Furthermore, pandemic pressures, and continued downward pressure on cocoa prices has further impacted on farmer income within the region, despite the efforts of major confectionery groups, civil society and governments to address the outstanding issues.
However, despite this backdrop, Ofi has asserted it has ‘substantially advanced’ towards its goals, particularly on climate, detailed in its latest report, which it says will show further dividends with support from international collaboration and regulation – which is soon to be introduced with new EU due diligence supply chain laws being drafted in Brussels.
Notably, the company’s study includes action to eliminate child labour and raise farmer incomes. Child labor monitoring is in place across all managed sustainability programs, while the company’s digital CLMRS app, a part of the Olam Farmers Information System (OFIS) – already used across Central & West Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia – was extended to Papua New Guinea. ofi is also establishing an estimate of cocoa farmer incomes across sourcing countries to better understand and close living income gaps.
Significantly, the report found that its child labour monitoring has extended its reach – from covering 43,000 households in 201,7 to a total of 218,000 in 2021, as well as other measures to enhance support for farming communities including exploring additional agroforestry options.
In terms of its wider results, Ofi said that from the Brazilian Amazon to the landscapes of Ivory Coast, the company has taken further steps to protect and restore forests: it distributed 1.75m trees to farmers (a 356% increase since 2017/18) and enhanced the accuracy of its deforestation monitoring, having polygon mapped two-thirds of its sustainability programmes.
As the report noted, in 2020, it attained a core goal of 100% traceability for its direct cocoa supply chains in nine countries (amounting to 569,000 tonnes), which are traced directly to farms and cooperatives (which equates to two thirds of its total stocks).
Furthermore, the company has also invested to reduce its CO2 emissions per metric ton of product output from its cocoa processing facilities, down by 19% since 2018, by installing circular biomass boilers fuelled by waste cocoa shells and switching to green electricity. The boiler at the Koog aan de Zaan facility in the Netherlands, where it produces its premium cocoa ingredient brand, deZaan, will now allow ofi to target a further 50% cut in natural gas usage, which will lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.
Speaking on its climate goals, Gerard A. Manley, CEO of ofi’s cocoa platform and Chief Sustainability Officer of ofi, said: “We need to keep the 1.5 degrees climate ambition alive. That means driving climate action at every stage of our supply chain, from plant to palate, supporting customers on their own decarbonisation journeys, and reassuring consumers that their favourite chocolate bar, baked good, or ice cream is having a positive impact on the cocoa communities and landscapes it came from.”
Manley continued: “The progress we’ve made so far is thanks to the joint efforts of customers, sustainability partners, and national and local authorities. These issues are bigger than any one organisation; we need collaboration and regulation to help achieve structural change, including the right legislation in cocoa-consuming and producing countries. Working together, the international community can drive change at scale.”
Furthermore, all cocoa data collected by ofi can feed directly into AtSource, its sustainability insights platform, giving customers full visibility of their cocoa’s environmental and social impact, including traceability for all of ofi’s directly sourced cocoa.
Felipe Faria, LATAM Regional Manager at Partnerships for Forests (P4F), a program funded by the UK government via the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, added: “Since 2018, we have been working with ofi and other partners to restore areas of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. By successfully creating a one-stop shop for cocoa farmers to access technical assistance, financial credit, and a market to sell their cocoa, we have already brought over 17,000 hectares of land under sustainable management. ofi has played a leading role at every step, particularly around testing new ideas and solutions to accelerate the project’s progress.”