Nestlé, Mondelēz, Mars, Olam among dozen companies that sign a landmark agreement to plot a sustainability roadmap for the industry
The world’s biggest buyers, producers and retailers in the cocoa supply chain met in London this week to sign a statement of collective intent to end deforestation in the global cocoa supply chain.
The agreement, the first of its kind covering the global cocoa supply chain, was brokered by the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit and signed by 12 of the biggest companies in the supply chain, including Cargill, Olam, Ferrero, The Hershey Company; Mars, Mondelēz International and Nestlé. The 12 companies hope to unveil a joint framework at COP 23 in Bonn in November.
Crucially, ministers and senior government representatives of the two leading cocoa producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as well as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK attended the high level meeting in the grand surrounds of Spencer House.
The Prince of Wales told participants: “It is clear that the private sector has a critically important part to play in saving our remaining forests, particularly through tackling the deforestation that has too often, alas, been associated with global commodity supply chains. The commitments made in this regard over recent years by a number of the world's major companies, including some of those represented in this room, are hugely encouraging.
But we all know that delivery on such commitments can be challenging, to put it mildly, and that the list of commodities covered remains far from complete. And until now, one of the important omissions from that list was cocoa, which is why today's announcement is so very heartening.”
The statement commits the companies to work with public, private, and civil society partners to develop a common vision and joint framework to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa sector by 2018. Among other commitments, the companies will work with producer country governments to “professionalise and economically empower farmers and their families, and deepen support for inclusive and participatory development of cocoa-growing communities, with a strong focus on gender empowerment.” They also agree to help mobilise financial resources, including innovative financial tools and mechanisms, to help finance sustainable development in the cocoa sector.
One senior executive from a leading company said the real significance of the agreement is in getting the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on board. Unlike other major commodities that are responsible for growing rates of deforestation globally, such as palm oil and soy, cocoa is overwhelmingly produced by smallholder farmers rather than big plantation firms, and action to combat deforestation can only be made with the support of governments, he said.
The cocoa deforestation commitment follows other deforestation commitments, including the New York Declaration on Forests, signed in 2014, which pledged to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and the Consumer Goods Forum’s zero net deforestation commitment by 2020.
Barry Parkin, chairman of the World Cocoa Foundation, said many existing commitments to end deforestation by 2020 weren’t realistic. He said the cocoa initiative would not rush to set a target date, but take time to come up with a credible plan. “We already have a strong level of trust between industry players” who were used to working together pre-competitively. He added: “We have the right people together, the right civil society partners, the right government partners, the right industry partners and the right convening partners to succeed.”
Main image credit: Ian Jones Photography