Beyond Chocolate sector agreement: Colruyt Group is trying to achieve a sustainable cacao supply chain that guarantees farmers a liveable income

Colruyt Group is going to set up a sustainable cacao supply chain in West Africa in order to provide local farmers with a liveable income. In doing this, the group is taking a concrete step towards the realisation of the recently signed sector agreement 'Beyond' Chocolate', that aims to sustainably improve the living conditions of the cacao producers by 2030. Colruyt Group has been working for years to make its chocolate and cacao products more sustainable. For example, the retailer only uses certified sustainable cacao in nearly all of its own-brand chocolate and cacao products, which is the target for all Belgian retailers by 2020.

Pilot project in West Africa

Colruyt Group plans to take specific steps toward providing a liveable income for small-scale farmers that supply the cacao beans for its own-brand products. "We are going to start a pilot project with one or more of the cacao cooperatives in countries where the farmers have the most difficulty with living of their crops, perhaps in West African Ghana or the Ivory Coast", says Stefan Goethaert, Director at Colruyt Group and responsible for product sustainability. "Together with local and Belgian partners, we want to set up an integral supply chain that is sustainable all the way from field to shelf." The future partnership must provide the farmers with a liveable income AND be profitable for the next links in the chain. It must also provide social and environmental added value, such as helping to stop child labour and deforestation. The group is also going to invest in a local training project, together with its company fund Collibri Foundation.

One more step towards a liveable income

The initiative of Colruyt Group meets the real needs of the many small cocoa farmers. "Even though we have worked hard in recent years to make the cacao supply chain more sustainable, we are aware that there is still work to be done", says Stefan Goethaert. The current certification standards and sustainability initiatives are already a major step forward. Every initiative is valuable and focuses on specific sustainability aspects, such as price, productivity, environment or child labour. "However, it is time to go one step further and to work together to improve conditions and make a real difference to small farmers. We have noticed that, for example, even if the price is at the correct level, this does not necessarily guarantee a liveable income, because there are other factors such as the size of the harvest, access to the market and other streams of income", says Stefan Goethaert. 

Proven experience in sustainable supply chains

The pilot project is a challenge for Colruyt Group, because the concept of 'liveable income' is relatively new with virtually no practical implementation in complex supply chains such as cacao. On the other hand, this is not the first chain project by the retailer, because there are already six sustainable supply chain projects, often linked to a training programme. Through these projects, the group has a direct positive impact on more than 33,000 farmers.  Customers can already see the results of this on the shelves: sustainable coffee from Congo and Burundi, Quinoa from Peru, rice from India and yes, chocolate from Nicaragua, all under our own-brand Boni Selection. "The experience we have gained in setting up sustainable supply chains will definitely be helpful when starting up our project in Africa", says Stefan Goethaert.  "Furthermore, we also have specific experience with cacao, because in Nicaragua we have been helping train 300 young farmers in the cacao farming."

98.6% of the target for 2020 has already been reached

Colruyt Group has actively participated in drafting the Beyond Chocolate sector agreement. "We fully support the agreed targets, but obviously we don't have to start from scratch", says Stefan Goethaert. The retailer has been hard at work in recent years in ensuring its own-brand chocolate products are more sustainable. Today, 98.6 % of all chocolate and cacao products in the Boni Selection and Everyday ranges already have one or more sustainability labels, including UTZ, Bio or FairTrade. "Of the 215 products, we already have 212 products with only certified chocolate or cacoa in their ingredients, ranging from chocolate bars to chocolate milk and biscuits. There are only three products containing a minimal amount of cacao that are not yet certified, but they will be by 2020", says Stefan Goethaert. As a result of this, the group is already realising one of the goals of its covenant: to use only certified cacao in all own-brand cacao by 2020. 

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Boilerplate Colruyt Group

Colruyt Group operates in the food and non-food distribution sector in Belgium, France and Luxembourg with approximately 550 own stores and over 580 affiliated stores. In Belgium this includes Colruyt, OKay, Bio-Planet, Cru, Dreamland, Dreambaby and the affiliated stores Spar and Spar Compact. In France, in addition to Colruyt stores, there are also affiliated Coccinelle, CocciMarket and Panier Sympa stores. The group is also actively involved in the foodservice business (supply of food products to hospitals, company canteens and catering businesses) in Belgium (Solucious). The other activities comprise the sale of fuel in Belgium (DATS 24), printing and document management solutions (Symeta) and the production of green energy. The group employs over 29.300 employees and recorded a EUR 9,0 billion revenue in 2017/18. Colruyt is listed on NYSE Euronext Brussels (COLR) under ISIN code BE0974256852.

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