Interview: Cocoa & Forests Initiative Company Progress

An interview with Cedric Van Cutsem, Global Operations Manager, Cocoa Life Program, Mondelēz International by Ethan Budiansky, Director of Environment, World Cocoa Foundation

Cedric Van Cutsem (R) speaks during a workshop held on the sidelines of the TFA2020 General Assembly in Accra, Ghana on May 23. (Photo courtesy of Mondelēz)

On May 23, WCF member Mondelēz International held a Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) workshop on the sidelines of the Tropical Forests Alliance 2020 General Assembly in Accra, Ghana. WCF’s Director of Environment, Ethan Budiansky, sat down with Cedric Van Cutsem, Global Operations Manager, Cocoa Life Program, to talk about Mondelēz’s commitments to end cocoa-related deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and how the company is developing its action plan.

1) Mondelēz, together with 26 cocoa and chocolate companies and the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, has made high-level commitments to fight deforestation in the cocoa supply chain as part of CFI. Why?

Cocoa Life is a holistic approach that is tackling challenges across Mondelēz’s cocoa supply chain. We have laid our strategy around five focus areas: farming, community, youth, livelihood, and, of course, environment.

Through our interventions on the ground and our interactions with the farmers, we came to realize the importance of maintaining eco-systems and protecting the lands. Deforestation is an important challenge, which has an impact on local weather as well as global climate, and addressing it requires a global partnership with companies and governments, working on a common framework of action. That’s why taking part to the discussions and sharing commitment through platforms like CFI are important: they allow us to align on the strategy and work towards common goals.

2) CFI calls for company action plans to be delivered before the end of 2018. What steps are you taking to ensure you can meet this objective?

Early this year, we have organized consultative workshops in both Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. We started working, along with our partners and other stakeholders, on our CFI Action plan, using a template provided by WCF. We involved a wide range of experts, including supply chain partners, program implementers, monitoring partners and governmental bodies. Together, we mapped different interventions and established three working groups, one for each of the CFI pillars – Sustainable Production and Livelihoods, Protection and Restoration, and Social Inclusion and Community Development). Cocoa Life coordinates the work of each of these working groups, who are responsible for setting targets, timings, and potential partners.

All the inputs will be centralized and evaluated internally by the Cocoa Life team, and submitted for feedback to our five external advisors. After finalization, we will submit these action plans ahead of time to WCF.

3) Can you already identify some key actions that Mondelēz envisions to take to deliver on your CFI commitments?

CFI is very well aligned with our Climate Change strategy, which we articulated around three areas and sets of objectives:

  1. Produce: Invest in training farmers on Good Agricultural Practices and infrastructures to increase cocoa yields.
  2. Protect: Map all registered Cocoa Life farms to identify areas at risk with Global Forest Watch, monitor tree cover losses and work towards restoring degraded forests.
  3. People: Provide community members with climate-smart business training and financial support to strengthen their resilience and ensure Community Action Plans prioritize forest protection.

4) Who are you working with to fight cocoa-related deforestation? What is the role of the public sector? What is the role of WCF and IDH?

We work with a wide range of stakeholders, each of whom have different responsibilities. Our supply-chain partners work on improving the productivity and traceability of cocoa. We also work with them when it comes to mapping the cocoa farms currently under the Cocoa Life program. Our partner Global Forest Watch is a key player for helping us identify farms at risk and protected areas. On the other hand, the public sector provides us with the framework of policies and long term strategy that will guide us in our implementations.

In regard to WCF, it has effectively aligned the participating companies, and developed the templates and coordinated the development of the action plans. It has now an additional responsibility to share these action plans with the governments. We need to validate with the governments that what we are proposing supports their National strategy.

The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) plays an important role as CFI secretariat to facilitate the multi-stakeholder strategy. In so-doing, they are working with the government representatives, NGOs and companies to identify CFI priorities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and help build alignment between the action plans of the government and signatory companies.

5) As a chocolate manufacturer, how does Mondelēz work with smallholder cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to address the issue of cocoa-related deforestation and forest degradation?

By the end of 2017, we have trained more than 60,000 farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire on Good Agricultural and Environmental Practices. When adopted, these practices allow farmers to increase their yields without impacting the environment or resorting to deforestation to make a living. Along these trainings, we support them through the development of alternative projects and community action plans.

Also, with the help of partners, we map Cocoa Life farms. Today, a significant number of farms are registered in our system, and we plan on having all of the farms mapped.

Among our other achievement, we distributed over one million shade trees in Ghana, and aim at planting and additional 750,000 in Côte d’Ivoire, over the next three years.

6) How does CFI fit into Mondelēz’s global cocoa sustainability strategy?

The Cocoa & Forests Initiative is very well aligned, not only with our Climate Change strategy, but also with our Cocoa Life program strategy as a whole. Indeed, Cocoa Life is a holistic program, which works at improving the lives of farmers on all levels. To do so, we have developed 10 KPIs to help us measure impact against our five focus areas that complement CFI: farming, community, youth, livelihood, and environment.

Transparency is also a value we cherish at Cocoa Life. We believe it is important, through CFI, to report on progress, failures, and learnings. We believe we have learned a great deal through the REDD+ pilot in Côte d’Ivoire and the United Nations Development Program’s Environmental Sustainability and Policy for Cocoa Production in Ghana (ESP), and we would be very happy to share these learning with our peers. This way, we set a higher standard and achieve all of our ambitious action plans.