Interview With Barry Callebaut On The Sustainable Chocolate Movement In APAC

Friday, December 14th, 2018

APFI interviews Barry Callebaut’s Chief Innovation, Sustainability & Quality Officer, Pablo Perversi, and President for Asia Pacific, Ben De Schryver regarding their views on the sustainable food movement in APAC.    

1. Could you provide an overview of Barry Callebaut’s progress in APAC for the past 12 months for the Forever Chocolate movement?

Pablo: Forever Chocolate is our plan to make sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025. This is to ensure that chocolate will be around forever. We have a moral obligation as well as a business interest to tackle the structural issues in the chocolate supply chain. Therefore, we have to lift cocoa farmers out of poverty, ensure children are not engaged in child labour, become carbon positive, eliminate deforestation from our supply chain as a step to becoming forest positive, and have 100 percent sustainable ingredients in all our products.

The progress data show how, through our sourcing, processing and sales, we are driving change, supporting cocoa farming communities, reducing resource consumption in our factories and driving the uptake of sustainably sourced chocolate. Currently, 44 percent of our ingredients are coming from sustainable sources so we are nearly halfway to our overall goal, in just two years.

Ben: Furthermore, last year, we have developed five pilot projects in five important cocoa growing countries, including Indonesia. In cocoa farming areas around Sulawesi and Sumatra, we are testing what a sustainable cocoa farm looks like, and whether this approach is replicable and scalable. We have created heat maps to assess which of the ingredients we source for our chocolate are at risk of including the worst forms of child labour, or contributing to deforestation. Through certification and additional requirements on traceability and the mapping of farms, we are committed to driving positive change in the supply chains of all the ingredients we source.

Asia continues to be a growing market for Barry Callebaut and Indonesia remains a key cocoa producer country, which means our sustainability efforts in this region is important if we are to achieve our goals.

2. Relative to the West, how has APAC progressed when it comes to sustainable chocolate?

Pablo: Awareness of sustainable chocolate is growing among chocolate manufacturers in Asia.  Consumers are globally experiencing that sustainable chocolate not only tastes great, but is also makes people feel good.

Ben: Over the last few years, we have seen progress from research trials on sustainable cocoa production in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Cocoa farming have improved based on our understanding of the soil condition of the farms in this region, proper use of fertilizers and pesticides, and also fermentation.

There is a growing number of chocolate manufacturers who have committed to sourcing 100 percent certified cocoa and ingredients, so it’s possible to buy sustainable chocolate without even realising it. Even more value can remain with the local cocoa farmers and their communities if the chocolate itself is manufactured in-country, such as in Indonesia and Malaysia.

3. How do you think companies in APAC can begin their sustainability journey?

Ben: Many companies in Asia have already started their sustainability journey.  An increasing amount of companies realise that the structural challenges in the chocolate supply chain, such as cocoa farmer poverty, are in the mid long term, a risk to their business. A sustainable supply chain helps to mitigate these risks. It’s really not difficult to start. The first step to embed more sustainable business practices starts for example with looking for efficiencies in the supply chain that can be environmentally friendly and cost-effective, publicly committing to sustainable targets and sourcing sustainable raw materials. Barry Callebaut can support companies on this journey by providing sustainably sourced chocolate.

Pablo When companies see that increasingly, consumers around the world are demanding more environmentally sustainable and ethical products, it is obvious that sustainable business practices will improve their growth and profitability.

4. What are the new projects that Barry Callebaut will be embarking on in 2019 in Asia?

Ben: In 2019, we plan to bring Cocoa Horizons to Asia. Cocoa Horizons is an effective sustainability programme with the vision to drive cocoa farmer prosperity by creating self-sustaining farming communities that protect bio-diverse landscapes and supports children’s rights.

Indonesian cocoa farmers participating in Cocoa Horizons will have access to coaching, access to a Farmer Business Plan, are supported to access financial services and farm services, and are supported on income diversification activities and women empowerment. All of the above will ensure that cocoa farming in Indonesia will remain a profitable business. Farmer Business Plans are designed to be work plans which enable farmers to develop their farms into rehabilitated, diverse, professionally run farms over a period of several years.

Our pilot in Indonesia will also focus on supporting and incentivising cocoa farmer communities to monitor, remediate and prevent child labour on cocoa farms. While we believe that monitoring and remediation is an important step in this process, we must also focus on targeting the root causes of child labour, as well as changing the system and the cultural awareness and acceptance of this practice. This means working closely together with the Indonesian government and our customers and suppliers in Asia to create an enabling environment to be able to achieve this.

Pablo: It is important to highlight that the pilot in Indonesia seek to accelerate our progress towards our Forever Chocolate goals, foster our impact on the ground and facilitate partnerships on this journey. This also includes instigating an enabling environment, with support from NGO’s, governments and industry partners. We cannot achieve our Forever Chocolate targets alone. We need commitments and investment from industry as well as an enabling policy environment from governments. This is really about creating a movement – and together, I believe we can make sustainable chocolate the norm.