The power of partnerships in cocoa sustainability

Posted 04-01-21

Proposed by The Hershey Company

In February 2021, I celebrated my 10 years working in cocoa. It has been quite a journey.

It is a journey that has allowed me to acquire various perspectives, including a certification standardization body (UTZ), an implementer (NGO Solidaridad) and a brand point of view (The Hershey Company ), leading our holistic sustainability agenda (Cocoa for good) supported by a commitment of $ 500 million.

One thing I have learned through all my experiences is that making a difference in cocoa can only be achieved through the power of partnerships and industry alignment. Partnerships with governments. Partnerships with suppliers and NGOs. And pre-competitive alignment across the industry to ensure the industry’s efforts are as effective as possible.

Poverty is at the heart of many challenges within cocoa growing communities and alleviating this poverty is no easy task. It arouses a series of emotions and criticisms as everyone agrees that it is unacceptable that farmers struggle to earn a decent living and provide for their families through their work. I firmly believe that this is why we need to segment this daunting challenge, identify precisely what contributes to it and move forward to find solutions. Little by little, step by step, we continue to move forward and progress. No one can do this in isolation, without trust, collaboration, compassion and creativity – and by leveraging the scale and effectiveness of partnerships and alignment.

As I reflect on the significant changes and evolution of our industry over the past 10 years, I am proud to see real threads of change; changes that have not gone unnoticed either Cocoa Barometer 2020.

Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that a company could:

  • Foster innovation in the areas of nutrition, education and information and land tenure; spaces historically neglected by companies because of their sensitivity or their complexity. For Hershey, these innovations were driven with partners including YOU SAID, Peanut Butter Project, Jacobs Foundation, Farmerline, Winrock and Meridia. Innovation in land space, for example, has turned into Land partnership Côte d’Ivoire (CLAP) to advance affordable land documentation launched in 2020.
  • Come together with eight other companies to align their activities under the umbrella of a common strategy: CocoaAction. By partnering in non-competitive ways, we have created a safe learning space to look into the unknown rather than accept the unknown. For Hershey, that meant focusing on the right actions, aligning with our suppliers, building capacity on the ground, and doing meaningful work in the areas of farmer professionalization, community empowerment, voice of women and children’s education so that they develop their potential through access to quality education.
  • Join industry and governments to align on a common agenda (including new laws and regulations) for the protection of forests, each taking responsibility for activities: the Cocoa and Forest Initiative. Thanks to geospatial satellite imagery, we can now detect farms in risk areas and detect deforestation. For Hershey, this means we are on a steep learning curve with our suppliers and partners to build capacity on the ground in the areas of agroforestry and landscape programs. But we do.

Have our efforts produced the results we were aiming for? We are making progress but there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s part of the journey. We learn hard, sailing with a destination on the horizon, even if we don’t always have 100% of the information available. There is power in keeping an eye on the goal, in learning, in adapting while staying the course, and in leaning through the power of partnerships.

These partnerships come in different forms:

  • public-private partnerships aligned with home country national plans that go beyond our supply chain and seek to drive systemic change.
  • partnerships that are implemented within our supply chain and cocoa communities at large. Some have elements of best practice that we know will work, such as scaling up child labor monitoring and remediation systems to reduce child labor rates – by over 30% to date . Or village savings and loan associations that not only create a culture of savings, but also empower women and prove to be resilient social structures even during a pandemic. We will pilot some partnerships and try new solutions that we believe in, such as affordable land documents for farmers to make them feel confident to invest in their farms.

CocoaAction has been a powerful springboard for the nine companies to bring ideas from paper to practice and tackle cocoa’s biggest challenges. Without CocoaAction, there would not have been a path to the establishment of the Cocoa and Forest Multi-Stakeholder Initiative (CFI) or even Hershey’s Cocoa For Good program.

When I started my professional career in 2002, I remembered reading Socrates at school: “I know I don’t know anything. It is also called the paradox of wisdom. I think this is a good start; remain humble, listen, collaborate and seek common solutions to foster prosperity, a better quality of life and better resilience for farmers today and for generations to come.

Step by step, we’ll get there.

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The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company

An American multinational and one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world.

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