Exclusive: Cargill places sustainability at the heart of the World Confectionery Conference

With our World Confectionery Conference fast approaching, editor Neill Barston offers an exclusive interview with Cargill on its ongoing sustainability mission within key agricultural supply chains including the vital cocoa sector. 

Being passionate about genuine promotion of sustainable practices in industry is something that James Ede is certainly not short of enthusiasm for.

That’s certainly evident during our conversation with the Cargill sustainability specialist, as he discusses an eventful career to date which has presented him with many fine memories and experiences that have helped broaden his experience and knowledge. (See our exclusive event video preview with him here).

From becoming a National Park ranger on the English border, through to representing British farmers in the EU, and taking on an environmentally focused management post for Kellogg’s, life has been anything but dull.

He will be joining our World Confectionery Conference on 12 June to speak about a number of key issues within supply chains, including the impact of climate change upon major agricultural operations serving the confectionery, snacks, and wider food market. Make sure to register this week in order to obtain our early bird visitor rate, which is set to expire on 15 July.

For nearly six years he has served Cargill as a senior sustainability lead focused on food solutions that has seen him experience market segments including the cocoa supply chain upon which the chocolate trade remains reliant upon.

As a resident of the Brussels area, he’s keenly awaiting the chance to address this year’s World Confectionery Conference, which places eco-friendly best practice in industry and innovation firmly in the spotlight.

Its dynamic line-up will include keynote contributions from the likes of Caobisco European trade association, Ferrero, Tony’s Chocolonely, as well as a host of industry insights from Mintel into the hottest trends shaping our global markets.

For his part, James says that he’s eager to put across Cargill’s ongoing mission in seeking to make a difference to some of its own core supply chains around the world.

While he acknowledges that numerous pressing tests remain for the sector, he remains upbeat in his outlook on how companies, governments and industry can work together to effect positive change.

“It’s great to be on board again with the World Confectionery Conference and to join everyone in Brussels. It’s a great city, and it is also my home. There are some great opportunities in the industry, and we are seeing innovation within the cocoa and chocolate sector, so I’m looking forward to the event,” notes the sustainability specialist, who has taken particular joy in seeing environmental gains made in his present role, as well as his eventful career to date.

As for his original inspiration for joining the sector, he says that his love of the environment was something that was very much instilled at a young age. While he’s career has taken some interesting pathways, there has been a defining thread of sustainability that provides a driving motivation for him.

“I am a city boy grew up in Manchester in the UK, we always went out to the Lake District, which is a beautiful part of Britain. That really inspired me about the landscape, the agriculture and farmland, and conservation of what was happening, that inspired me right from school, to planting trees, and work on Hadrian’s Wall in the north, to ultimately working with farmers and looking at how we can help them to develop sustainability on their farms. That’s what started driving me,” explains the industry expert, who is enjoying life in Brussels with his wife and young family, who it seems are also showing a similarly strong sign of interest in nature and the environment.

For his own part, James says he’s relishing the opportunity to continue Cargill’s broader sustainability goals across varying sectors. As he’s all too aware, the industry is presently grappling with a raft of significant challenges.

From market instability brought about by volatile cocoa prices, climate conditions impacting on crops, as well as pressing social issues of child and forced labour that remain a factor within wider agricultural spheres, there are core issues that are understandably continuing to grab international headlines.

Driving industry impact
However, as James firmly believes that both at individual and company-wide level, that positive industry changes are possible, yet he acknowledges the scale of the task in hand, and the need for sustained collaborative action.
“Cargill has a long history of investing and building sustainable through our businesses, and it’s an essential part of our company, as we take things forward.

“We see sustainability in three core areas where we feel can have the most impact on the ground, so whether that’s solutions relating to climate, reducing carbon in our facilities and factories, as well as working with farmers on the ground, and the communities where we work, as it’s hugely important to us how we empower them,” explains the sustainability specialist, who noted that another factor of being mindful of landscapes and their correct management was also of critical importance.

As he adds, the company has been particularly honed on making further headway on progress against its sustainability challenges in the cocoa sector. This has become an increasingly major part of the company’s activities, and led to a decade of work under its Cocoa Promise initiative, which continues today, after being built on a platform of supporting enhanced agricultural techniques, promoting educational opportunities and monitoring of child labour.

“We have some great opportunities and solutions that we are still developing for the cocoa sector, and we have looked beyond challenges to empowering communities, whether that’s investing in children’s schooling, as well as supporting women, who are an essential part of the decision making part in terms of we can empower them both on and off the farm. So, I think, sustainability continues to develop and evolve, and it’s hugely important,” notes James of his post.

Consequently, he notes it the ongoing work to be completed on the likes of the Cocoa Promise that he says has made the sustainability sector an ‘agile and dynamic space’ to work in, and one which he’s found notably rewarding.
As he reveals, his present position involves working across the EMEA region, exploring working with customers across its portfolio, within chocolate, and broader food solutions, starches, sweeteners and oils.

“One of my passions is really about the fact we’re customer driven – we really look at the trends that are coming from consumers and customers in the marketplace and we continually see the importance of sustainability in new product development featuring sustainability as a key part of their offer.

“So, it’s about how we translate that into the category of chocolate and cocoa, and if we can really tap into that, just imagine the scale and impact we could have on sustainability. Another of my key passions is how we can build that value, so I will be talking a lot about those trends and how they are growing.
“We some great innovations coming through, including Nestle’s accelerator programme, which is something that is already out there and people can engage with it, and it’s not something you have to look at the small print to find.

Accelerator success
As we recently reported, Cargill is engaging in a five-year initiative alongside Nestle, and ETG/Beyond Beans sustainability organisation that has set its sights on significant reduction of carbon emissions stemming from supply chains.
This is to be achieved through advanced agroforestry techniques of land management related to regenerative agriculture in cocoa communities.
Some of its actions include planting multi-purpose species of shade trees will be distributed to farmers, who will learn tree planting and pruning.
This vital action is anticipated to help reduce the harsh effects of the sun and provide moisture-rich spaces for cocoa crops to survive during the dry season. They can also improve water management and enhance on-farm biodiversity, as well as absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Its goals include planting more than two million shade trees on land managed by around 20,000 farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast. These schemes are anticipating cutting over 500,000 metric tonnes of carbon over two decades.

EUDR commitment
Perhaps the most pressing pieces of legislation surrounding the industry this year is the fast-approaching EUDR deforestation legislation governing supply chains.

This places the onus on businesses to prove their respective operations are environmentally sound, as well as protecting human rights.
But is Cargill on track to deliver its own commitments for this, and how much of a difference will such frameworks make?
“Clearly, it’s going to have a significant impact, we are committed to the implementation of that regulation and we are busy going through the process to develop that. It’s hugely important for us – cocoa is a supply chain based on smallholder farmers, and we are helping them to achieve that compliance.  You can read the extended version of this piece in the July edition of Confectionery Production.




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