Sustainable cocoa & sugar

We aim to source all our cocoa and sugar sustainably by 2020.

The challenges facing cocoa cultivation

Around 70% of the world’s cocoa supplies come from West Africa, where cocoa is farmed on 18 million acres of tropical land, mostly by smallholder farmers who sometimes work in cooperatives. Over 40 million people, including 5.5 million farmers, earn their living from cocoa farming.

However, many of these farmers lack access to training and other services and are not as productive as they could be. Poor yields and income can lead to debt and poverty. This sometimes leads to farmers resorting to harmful practices, such as clearing forested land for additional planting.

Building capacity

We aim to source all our cocoa from sustainable sources by 2020. The main countries we source our cocoa from are Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Our key cocoa suppliers are Barry Callebaut, Cargill and ADM.

Cocoa accounts for approximately 4% of our total volume of agricultural raw materials. We buy around 1% of global production, 95% of which is used in our ice creams such as Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum. For Magnum, we committed to sourcing 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified™ cocoa by the end of 2015 – and reached 98% by then.

We work with certification organisations as well as our suppliers to boost sustainable farming. Certification is one way of helping to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and it can play an important role in capacity building in agricultural supply chains.

We support the Rainforest Alliance, an international conservation organisation that works to conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods by promoting and evaluating the implementation of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards. These cover ecosystem conservation, worker rights (including the prohibition of child labour), safety and wildlife protection. They also cover water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing, legal wages and contracts for workers.

We work closely with our suppliers too and support them in their efforts to help farmers in the cocoa supply chain achieve certification. We also work with our suppliers and their farmers to assess the impact of sustainable practices, such as on health, education, women’s empowerment, family welfare, farm performance and environmental protection.

Transitioning sustainable sugar

We are also working towards sourcing all our sugar from sustainable sources. The main countries we source our sugar from are France, Brazil and India and two of our main suppliers are CristalCo and Tereos. “Sugar accounts for roughly 6% of our total volume of agricultural raw materials,” explains Leslie Leinders, our Sustainable Sourcing Manager responsible for sugar purchasing. “We use sugar cane and sugar beet in a range of products, primarily for our ice creams.

“Our aim is to work with our supply partners as well as our peers to source sugar sustainably and to encourage the industry to shift to sustainable sourcing. Partnering is a prerequisite if we are to drive real change in the sugar cane industry, and we are setting up a joint roadmap for the years to come.”

We have joined the Bonsucro roundtable, which is an international not for-profit, multi-stakeholder organisation established to promote sustainable sugar cane. In December 2012, we were the first member to buy credits of sugar. We continue to buy Bonsucro credits to signal to the market that we are serious about sustainable sugar, purchasing 110,000 credits in 2015. However, our aim is to move to physical sustainable and certified supplies as soon as we can. In the Americas and Asia we have been working – mainly with Bonsucro – to apply a combined approach of credits and certifying supply chains.

A first for Kibon ice cream

In Brazil, alongside purchasing credits, we were the first to carry out the Bonsucro chain of custody certification in one of our ice cream factories. This ensures the traceability of certified sugar all along the supply chain from the production of raw materials to the consumer.

In 2013, our Kibon ice cream became the first ice cream company in Brazil to be able to label its products Bonsucro certified. Since then, during 2014–15, we have worked with our suppliers to extend our chain of custody certification. The aim is to get all the sugar we use in Brazil Bonsucro certified by 2016.

Harmonising sustainable sugar standards in Europe

We first began our sustainable sourcing journey with our suppliers who were early adopters of our Sustainable Agriculture Code. At the same time we have been working towards a common sustainable sourcing approach through ‘pre-competitive’ discussions with our industry peers.

“Our goal is to harmonise the sustainable sourcing codes of the food and drink industries and forge them into a single standard,” explains Leslie. “This has resulted in the implementation of the Farm Sustainability Assessment, developed through the SAI Platform, which the European sugar industry has accepted and is starting to use. This represents a significant step towards simplifying the landscape of sustainable sourcing initiatives. Overall it will create a far greater impact.”

Back to top