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Sustainable cocoa & sugar

Cocoa and sugar are vital ingredients for many of our brands. We're working with partners to source 100% sustainable cocoa and sugar so that we can ensure our supply chain is resilient and we can meet consumer demand.

Cocoa farmer with basket, Ghana

Global commodities need a collective approach

Cocoa and sugar are both global commodities that often have complex supply chains: cultivating them provides livelihoods to millions of people, but is also associated with issues including deforestation, water use and human rights risks.

We buy only a small proportion of global production of either commodity, which means we can best create the changes we want to see through partnership and collaboration with others. Longstanding certification schemes for both ingredients enable buyers like us to work with suppliers within existing sustainability frameworks – but we also recognise the need to strengthen certification and improve traceability.

We're committed to sourcing 100% of our cocoa and sugar sustainably by 2020 as they’re priority crops for our business. That will help secure our future supply of vital ingredients and improve transparency in our supply chains, which builds trust among consumers and others. Through partnerships with our suppliers, we’re also aiming to improve farmers’ agricultural practices and enhance their livelihoods.

Building capacity in cocoa

We buy around 1% of the global production of cocoa, mainly sourced from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. We use the majority of this in our ice cream brands such as Magnum, Walls and Ben & Jerry’s. Ben & Jerry’s worked with suppliers to achieve Fairtrade Certification for all its cocoa by 2014. And by 2017, 98% of the cocoa we need for Magnum was from Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM farms. See Targets & performance for details of our progress.

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and improve smallholder farm practices by promoting and evaluating the implementation of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard. The Standard promotes ecosystem conservation, worker rights (including the prohibition of child labour), safety and wildlife protection. It also covers topics such as water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing, legal wages and contracts for workers.

Our prosperity is linked with smallholders' livelihoods

Green farmer icon

People depend on cocoa for their livelihoods

Working with our suppliers and certification organisations is critical to our ambition of sourcing our cocoa sustainably - and can also support our wider ambitions to enhance livelihoods in our supply chains.

Cocoa supports an estimated 40 million people worldwide, including 5.5 million farmers. For many cocoa farmers, lack of access to training and other services results in poor yields, which in turn can lead to farmers switching crop or leaving farming and moving to urban centres in search of better jobs. This is particularly acute in the next generation of cocoa farmers who often do not see cocoa as a viable livelihood.

Our business success depends on the ingredients these farmers produce – so we have a long-term interest in ensuring that sustainable cocoa farming supports farmers and their communities. We work with key cocoa suppliers such as Barry Callebaut and Cargill to drive sustainability programmes direct with smallholder cocoa farmers, while preparation for certification can also play an important role in capacity building in agricultural supply chains.

Building resilience among smallholder farmers extends beyond supporting improvements in their agricultural practices. As we describe in Inclusive business, a holistic approach that aims to address the wider challenges they face is essential – and will play a crucial part in securing our supplies for the future.

For example, in 2017 we developed an innovative programme called ASPEN to provide women in cocoa communities in West Africa with an additional source of income by acting as sales agents for Unilever (and other) products. This pilot programme supports our sales by creating a way for consumers in hard-to-reach communities to buy our products. It’s a partnership between our supplier, Cargill, and TRANSFORM (a joint initiative between Unilever and the UK government’s Department for International Development). It began in early 2018 with a group of 30 smallholders and is being implemented by TechnoServe.

Our Partner to Win Awards

We can't achieve our sustainability objectives on our own – and one of the ways in which we recognise suppliers who have made an outstanding contribution is through our Partner to Win awards.

In 2017, our cocoa supplier Barry Callebault won the Partner to Win Award for Responsible and Sustainable Living for its "emphasis on the delivery of sustainable sourcing, resulting in a positive impact on farmers, customers, consumers, and the market or industry".

Towards a sustainable global sugar supply

We are working towards sourcing all our sugar from sustainable sources, recognising that the sugar we buy comes from both sugar beet and sugar cane, which can have very different supply chains. The main countries we source from are France, Brazil and India, and we've worked with suppliers and farmers to help them meet our Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC), see Targets & performance for details.

While we're proud of the progress we've made through our SAC, in the longer term our aim is to help create a global supply of sustainable sugar. We believe the best way to achieve this is to harmonise the sustainable sourcing codes of the food and drink industries and forge them into a single standard, which can have an impact at scale.

That's why we have helped develop the Farm Sustainability Assessment through the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, which has been agreed by many businesses in the food and beverages industries and gives farmers a single, simplified sustainability framework to work to.

Bonsucro – making sugar supplies more transparent

We support the Bonsucro standard, which aims to build the overall transparency of the sugar industry, including by increasing the proportion of physically-certified sugar from sugar cane. We continue to buy Bonsucro credits while working with Bonsucro and others in the Americas and Asia to apply a combined approach of credits and certifying supply chains.

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