Which sustainability challenge keeps you up at night, and how do you address solving it?
Rita:We have many challenges and opportunities in Brazil, including the fact that Brazil is still a net importer of cocoa beans. Protection of our forests is crucial, and I am really proud of our recent achievement to have cocoa agroforestry systems now recognized as a technique for forest restoration in all 6 cocoa states. The daunting task of finding the human, financial and technical resources to implement our solutions can keep me up at night.
Mariana:How do we achieve deforestation-free supply chains? I believe that the key point is in technical assistance to scale up good practices and consequently improve livelihoods. We need a large-scale program to transfer and create knowledge. Economic growth and sustainable development can strengthen each other in Brazil’s cocoa and chocolate sector. I strongly believe this is possible.
What about women empowerment in the cocoa value chain?
Mariana: In my organization there are many women in decision-making positions, but this is not the reality of the cocoa sector in Brazil. It is a challenge and a goal to involve more women in decision-making positions. We need more women in the environment field, as farmers and technicians. We need to improve the gender balance at all levels of the supply chain. I am happy that the Women in Cocoa and Chocolate network (WINCC) provides a platform to facilitate this.
Do you have advice for other women to grow their sphere of influence?
Rita: Next month I am starting a new role in which I will be leading a team of 100 professionals. You need to be willing to compromise to achieve goals, and for me it is important to stay focused on clear targets for my new team.
Mariana: For me, a turning point in my professional career was when I stopped feeling intimidated by senior peers, CEOs and directors. All the roles are important. It was relevant for me to recognize that I know very well what I am doing, and I know that I am doing it well. Have confidence in yourself!
What is your favorite chocolate?
Rita:I am trying to eat only high-quality Brazilian chocolate that I buy in specialty stores. My favorite types of chocolate contain at least 75% cocoa beans, and taste like the Brazilian rainforest.