A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to see Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance, speak at the International Supply Management Congress in Amsterdam. She was one of three keynote speakers at the event, and it was gratifying to hear her discuss in a positive way the work that Mars is doing on cocoa sustainability.
At the Congress, Tensie quoted Mars’s thinking that uncommon collaborations are the key to transitioning sustainability efforts from the niche to the mainstream. We believe that sustainability will have to become mainstream in order for cocoa farmers to thrive and for the future of cocoa to be secure.
Tensie also reference a case study on cocoa, saying that industry ownership of the problem is necessary, as well as leadership and investment. She mentioned that focusing on productivity will help to tackle the root causes of the economic, social, and environmental issues that the sector is facing. Whelan talked about the 70 percent yield improvement that Rainforest Alliance-certified farms are seeing in Cote d’Ivoire, but also acknowledged that there are challenges in organizing farmers. She also quoted the commitment that Mars has made to source 100 percent of its cocoa from certified sustainable source by 2020 and spoke of the similar commitments that Hershey and Ferrero made.
According to Tensie, “It’s going to require patience … Social and environmental issues require patience” and “sustainability is moving from compliance and risk avoidance, to innovation and collaboration.” She also challenged the attendees: “Do you want to be leaders or followers?”