The World Cocoa Foundation Partnership Meeting in Germany is Where Sustainability Has Tradition

Author Alexander Ferguson

Vice President, Communications & Membership
World Cocoa Foundation

Germany traces the origins of sustainability efforts in its cocoa and chocolate industry back to the 19th century. It was in 1876 that the industry established the Association of German Chocolate Manufacturers in Dresden. Initially committed to upholding quality standards, its successor organizations added commitments to consumer protection and sustainability in what is today the biggest market in Europe for chocolate.

It is fitting therefore that the World Cocoa Foundation, supported by lead sponsor Mars Wrigley, will hold its annual Partnership Meeting this year on October 23-24 in Berlin, Germany’s capital.

“The Partnership Meeting of the World Cocoa Foundation comes this year at a critical time for the industry,” said Richard Scobey, WCF President. “It is taking place as industry seeks new ways to solve long-standing problems in the supply chain and move more decisively towards creating prosperous farmers, empowered communities, and a healthy planet.”

The gathering is the leading industry event on sustainability in cocoa and chocolate. It will draw more than 300 sustainability experts, cocoa and chocolate company representatives, government officials, and others. In panel discussions and breakout sessions they will share ideas, reflect on pressing issues, and present case studies.

WCF President Rick Scobey

The theme of the meeting is “Drivers of Change”.

Big changes are sought in the cocoa and chocolate industry, where poverty among farmers, child labor and deforestation have raised concerns about the sustainability of the supply chain.

The meeting will explore three drivers of change:

  • Effective stakeholder collaboration and partnerships;
  • Strong business and policy environment; and
  • Public private investment in science, innovation, and learning.

These drivers are integral to WCF’s new strategy of achieving a sustainable and thriving cocoa sector. The vision is a sector where farmers prosper, cocoa-growing communities are empowered, human rights are respected, and the environment is conserved. This will be the first time that the WCF Partnership Meeting discusses this new pathway to sustainable cocoa.

For collaboration and partnerships, the meeting will look at new agreements the industry, governments and other stakeholders hope to soon announce to tackle child labor more effectively. These initiatives aim to raise farmer incomes, improve education and nutrition for children, upgrade sanitation and water, and expand child protection services. The meeting will review lessons learned from existing industry initiatives such as CocoaAction. Breakout sessions will give the stage to cocoa farmers and retailers to highlight their importance in bringing change to cocoa and chocolate production.

Photo by Luker Chocolate
Photo by Lucy O'Bryan Absolute Options LLC
Photo by Lucy O'Bryan Absolute Options LLC

The session on a strong business and policy enabling environment features senior officials from the International Cocoa Organization, the EU, and the Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire cocoa boards. These sessions, featuring Yves Brahima Koné, Director General of the Conseil du Café Cacao of Cote d’Ivoire and Joseph Boahen Aidoo, CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board, will give attendees an update on where discussions on pricing by origin countries and regulation in consumer countries are heading. Breakout sessions will review the latest developments in land tenure reform, blockchain technology to address traceability, and sector transformation in Latin America.

In discussing public private investment in science, innovation, and learning, the meeting will unpack the complexities of jurisdictional approaches to ending deforestation and features Justin Adams, Executive Director, Tropical Forest Alliance, and Kavita Prakash-Mani, Global Conservation Director, World Wildlife Fund. These jurisdictional approaches seek to bring communities, governments, businesses and civil society together to coordinate their actions and align their interests with the aim of bringing sustainability to a supply chain.  The session will continue with an examination of how other commodity sectors, including coffee, have lifted incomes for farmers. In its breakout sessions it will delve deeper into digital farm services, income diversification and making finance work for sustainable cocoa.

When the foundations for sustainability in cocoa were laid in Germany during the 19th century, the country was led by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who once said: “The main thing is to make history, not to write it.”

The WCF Partnership Meeting may not make history the way Bismarck did but it certainly hopes to bring new ideas and action on sustainability to the cocoa supply chain.