Celebrating 10 Years Of Moving Cocoa Forward Together

Progress Blog
Celebrating 10 Years Of Moving Cocoa Forward Together

Cathy Pieters, Vice President Sustainable Ingredients, Mondelēz International

Mondelēz International just published its 2021 Snacking Made Right Report, which demonstrates continued progress against its ESG goals and documents important milestones marking 10 years on our sustainability journey.

When we started Cocoa Life 10 years ago, we pioneered a new approach to cocoa sustainability: investing and working directly on the ground to deliver measurable impact, at scale, where change is needed; getting clearer visibility across the cocoa supply chain; and working to tackle all the different interconnected challenges. Our approach has been to test new approaches and to take these innovations to scale where they work.

Cocoa is the essence of our chocolate and vital to our business, so to meet our goal of ‘making cocoa right’, we need to help tackle the complex challenges that cocoa farmers face. By co-creating solutions to move cocoa forward together, we can help to make cocoa farming a more sustainable business and build communities that take on their own development while conserving natural resources.

“We invested in pioneering our own program, Cocoa Life, because certification labels didn’t go far enough in addressing the underlying issues in cocoa. We wanted to tackle the challenges on the ground in a more effective way, and so, we partnered with farmers, communities, local governments, suppliers and NGOs, invested directly in cocoa communities to create lasting change, and measured the impact of our actions.”

Christine Montenegro McGrath, SVP & Chief Impact & Sustainability Officer, MDLZ

Photo from the author - Chris McGrath

I am proud of what we have achieved over the first 10 years of Cocoa Life. Proud that we have met and even exceeded our 2022 goals with nearly 210,000 Cocoa Life registered farmers by the end of 2021 (2022 goal: 200,000) and an investment of USD 404M in the Cocoa Life program to support farmers’ livelihoods (2022 goal: USD 400M). Proud of the measurable and life changing impact we have made to the people and places where cocoa grows around our key areas of intervention.

Staying true to our values of integrity and transparency, the program uniquely and consistently measures its impact to enable continuous improvement and public progress and impact reporting. Of these, highlights for me include that by end of 2021:

  • Completed over 300,000 trainings, reaching farmers and community members with Good Agricultural and Environmental Practices;
  • Net incomes increased between +15% in Ghana and +33% in Côte d’Ivoire vs. 2019 and a +11% relative increase of Cocoa Life households in West Africa earning a living income in 2021 vs. 2019 despite the pandemic and inflation. Increased incomes are driven by premiums and higher prices (including the Living Income Differential), as well as productivity;
  • Empowered over 2,400 (96% of) Cocoa Life communities through Community Action Plans, prioritizing investment in school infrastructure, water and health/sanitation (vs. 1,959 communities reached by 2020); 70% of CAPs are supported by local government;
  • Over 163,700 community members participate in Village Savings & Loan Associations, of which 69% are women;
  • 61% of Cocoa Life communities in West Africa are covered with a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in place (vs. 27% in 2020);
  • Mapped over 198,000 of Cocoa Life farms, to help prevent deforestation (vs. 167,795 farms mapped by 2020);
  • Distributed over 4.5 million economic shade trees(+101% increase from 2020);
  • And recent findings show near to no deforestation on or closely around Cocoa Life farms in West Africa since 2018.

Our new film shares these impacts but I hope it also serves as a rallying call to all of us – all actors across the cocoa sector – to collaborate more to achieve more.

“What makes Cocoa Life different is its community-based approach, taking a whole community perspective in developing cocoa growing families. This requires an understanding of people on the ground and responding to their needs within each local context. To avoid a one size fits all solution, working through local partners is essential in order to support each community’s unique development trajectory.”

Aarti Kapoor, Executive Director of Embode

Aarti Kapoor, Executive Director of Embode

As we celebrate the progress and positive impact we have made with our partners, we are all too aware of the journey ahead. The cocoa sector continues to face persistent challenges, including child labor risks, that are a symptom of underlying systemic issues such as poverty and slow rural development. This only serves to underline how vital it is that we build even stronger partnerships and collaborative practices and resist the temptation to impose simplistic solutions. Only by working in partnership with local governments, NGOs – and hand-in-hand and side-by-side with the men and women who make their living from cocoa – can we unlock lasting change.

Proud as I am of the impact we’ve had over the last decade, I am even more excited about what we can achieve in the next decade. Our 2025 goal to source 100% cocoa volumes for our chocolate brands is a very important piece in the sustainable cocoa jigsaw. By the end of 2021, we sourced 75% of cocoa volumes for Mondelez International’s chocolate brands through Cocoa Life and are on track on our goal to hit 100% by 2025.

Along the journey, we’ve gathered valuable learnings and impact data that help us better understand what we will need to do within the program and at industry-level to accelerate impact and drive sector transformation. All that we have learned is shaping all that we do in the next phase of Cocoa Life. We will be able to share more about our plans for our next decade and how we will continue to move cocoa forward together towards end of this year. In the meantime, we are pleased to share our some of our impact to date in the latest Snacking Made Right report and our film about 10 years of Cocoa Life. Join us in moving cocoa forward together.