Cargill reports ESG sustainability gains, while acknowledging cocoa sector challenges

Cargill has highlighted key gains within environmental, social and governance policies, as it releases its 2023 ESG Report on progress towards core sustainability goals, including its cocoa supply chains, writes Neill Barston.

As the business noted, the study, which covers its entire global operations, has been formulated with a core focus across several areas of priority, namely, ‘climate, land, water and people’ as it assesses progress on its major areas of business.

In regards to the confectionery sector, the company has marked a decade of its core Cocoa Promise programme (see our recent exclusive video with Waleed Nasir, a sustainability lead for the company who spoke at this year’s World Confectionery Conference here). This has focused on delivering a greater level of direct support to farming communities through women’s empowerment schemes of financial and agricultural training for crop diversification. It has also placed a sharper focus on traceability within supply chains, through using geomapping satellite techniques in a bid to enable greater monitoring of crop production.

“When it comes to urgent challenges facing people and the planet, Cargill’s connections across the food system give us the opportunity – and responsibility – to deliver meaningful solutions,” said Brian Sikes, President and Chief Executive Officer at Cargill. “The problem-solving potential of agriculture has always been essential in nourishing people, supporting the livelihoods of farmers and food workers, and unlocking opportunities for growth. Leading with our values, Cargill is working to help achieve zero hunger, decarbonise our industries, protect and restore natural resources, and ultimately improve people’s lives.”

As the company noted, it has invested  $78 million in efficiency and sustainability projects across the business, as well as reducing emissions from its operations by 10.97%, achieving its 2025 goal of reducing operations from its emissions by 10% against a 2017 baseline.

It has delivered regenerative agriculture practices on 880,000 acres of North American agricultural land since 2020, and restored more than 9 billion litres of water in the past year, and distributed over  $115 million to support partners and local communities, and together, providing more than 20 million meals globally in the past twelve months.

Cocoa supply chain performance

In terms of its cocoa achievements, the company’s Cocoa Promise scheme reached an enhanced total of farmers – 127,595 in Ivory Coast (up from 107,000 in 2021), and 32,582 in neighbouring Ghana (against 25,000 the previous year), showing its reach had increased. In Cameroon, the figure increased from 38,000 to 40,000.

Furthermore, the company revealed that the percentage of farmers in its schemes who received additional support through its good agricultural practices initiative also increased. This rose from 75,000 to 94,993 this year in Ivory Coast, though the was in fact a reduction in Ghana, from 11,720 in 2021-22, to 1,635 in the past year. In Cameroon, the figure increased from 12,559 to 17,425 farmers receiving added assistance.

Notably, cocoa yields also increased across all three countries for those farmers who had engaged in its programmes.

Another significant issue is that of child labour within supply chains, with the company having devised a child labour monitoring and remediation system, which had significantly increased take-up in the past year. The number of households that received visits under its scheme rose notably, in Ivory Coast, from 24,835 to 55,475, in Ghana from 9,235 to 21,557, while it dipped marginally in Cameroon from 6,843 to 6,792.

As for polygon farm mapping, the number of plots being monitored also increased, from 104,979 134,791 in Ivory Coast, 61,532 to 73,844 in Ghana, and from 20,458 in Cameroon, to 32,190, revealing further positive gains. The company has worked with governments in the region to further best practices, though it has acknowledged there is a significant volume of work to be done in alleviating child labour issues and helping communities achieve a living income.

Speaking in the ESG report, Emiel van Dijk, Managing Director Cocoa & Chocolate Europe & West Africa said: “As a signatory to the U.N. Women’s Empowerment Principles, we adopted our cocoa-specific Gender Equity & Women’s Empowerment Strategy . Through training and financing, we are helping women increase their earning power and become community role models. As incomes go up, kids are more likely to stay in school and households grow more resilient.

“Meanwhile, in parts of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire where GPS polygon mapping of farms is largely complete, we observed less than 0.01% gross primary forest loss since 2014, showing that, with the appropriate technologies and farmer engagement, we can leverage digital tools to help accelerate transparency and target interventions for impact. We are proud of what we have achieved, but there’s much more to do. We will continue to go deeper, expand due diligence measures across our sourcing regions, intensify our focus on learning, and bringing everyone along on the journey. We know we haven’t yet reached the top of the mountain, but working with our valued partners, we now know that we have the map, the tools, and the team to get there.”

Pilar Cruz, Chief Sustainability Officer at Cargill added a further note of optimism in assessing its overall progress: “It’s the power of partnership that’s fueling our progress. Trusted relationships with our customers, food producers and stakeholders empower Cargill to deliver greater impact than any of us can alone,” said  “We all have a role to play in reimaging what’s possible in food and agriculture. We know that Cargill’s values in action can add still greater value—for the climate, land and water, and the people around the world whose nourishment depends on it. And we are committed, as ever, to getting it done.”


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