Beyond Chocolate 2023 General Assembly

On October 24th, over 60 Beyond Chocolate partners convened in Brussels for the 2023 General Assembly. During the event, the 2022 progress of the partnership was presented and an open discussion was held on roles, responsibilities and needs of the different stakeholder groups. 

Opening remarks by Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez

In her opening remarks, minister Gennez focused on the power of collaboration and the huge potential of the Beyond Chocolate partnership. She congratulated Beyond Chocolate partners on the progress made these past years and urged everyone to accelerate efforts and increase ambition to make sure that Belgian chocolate is not only the best but also the most sustainable. She expressed her support and belief in the partnership, stressing that the right people are around the table and urging all partners to become agents of change.

Introduction by Chairman Philippe de Selliers and Moussa Yeo, president of the Yeyasso cooperative

Yeo Moussa, president of the Yeyasso cooperative in Côte d’Ivoire, talked about the challenges cocoa farmers are confronted with. He pointed out the risk that upcoming local and EU regulations might put a high burden on cocoa farmers. He called on all stakeholders to empower cooperatives and farmer organizations, giving them data ownership, paying higher prices, and involving them in the design of sustainability projects and programs.

Presentation of the 2022 progress

Senior Program Manager Charles Snoeck and Senior Program Officer Marloes Humbeeck then presented the 2022 progress results of Beyond Chocolate. These results can be found in the Beyond Chocolate 2022 Annual Report. They stated that the Belgian market is clearly making a positive evolution to more sustainability, with 47% of volumes currently traceable to farm level and 90% of chocolate sold in Belgium by signatories certified and/or covered by a company scheme. They also applauded the fact that slowly more living income data is becoming available. However, they stressed that at impact level progress remains limited and that efforts need to accelerate to reach the Beyond Chocolate goals.

Beyond Chocolate Theory of Change

Beyond Chocolate partners were then presented with the first part of the Beyond Chocolate Theory of Change (TOC). This ToC is a framework that helps guide the partnership from where we are today to our impact objectives. Theory of Change task force members Siegfried Moeyersoons and Bart van Besien presented the objective and process behind the ToC. They stated the ToC will be actively used by the Steering Committee to develop action plans and to set priorities. So far, the ToC consists of a framework that clarifies the steps that need to be taken from output to impact. A next step is to define roles and responsibilities for the different stakeholder groups, thus making the ToC more concrete and actionable.

Each stakeholder group then went into an in-depth discussion on the roles and responsibilities they can take up to help reach the Beyond Chocolate impact goals. The following initial ideas for roles and responsibilities were discussed by the different stakeholder groups

  • Traders:
    • Should take up the responsibility to educate their customers on sustainable cocoa and to unlock the willingness to pay more for cocoa that enables living incomes.
    • Being the actor closest to the field, traders should design and provide solutions to their customers.
  • SMEs:
    • Should buy into the existing certifications and company schemes as a first step.
    • Should review their procurement practices to include living income and should be willing to pay more if they can get guarantees the cocoa enables living incomes. For example, the idea of a system of flat fees was introduced. This would entail an agreement between SMEs to pay an additional fee that goes to the farmer directly and is not taken up by other stakeholders in the value chain.
  • Large Manufacturers:
    • Should ensure as first steps that all cocoa is certified/covered by a company scheme, is compliant to EUDR and is covered by Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS).
    • Should use farmers income as a key factor of success of sustainability strategies.
  • Retail
    • Should, for their private label products, make informed procurement choices and be willing to pay the Living Income Reference Price.
    • Should embed sustainability and farmer incomes in all levels of their organization (procurement, KPIs, employee evaluations,…)
    • Should focus more on creating market demand for sustainable cocoa.
  • CSOs
    • Should hold Beyond Chocolate partners accountable beyond legislation.
    • Should lobby government and support local CSOs to create a civic space.
    • Should sensitize consumers on sustainable chocolate and communicate about Beyond Chocolate.
  • Government
    • Should support through donors and legislation an enabling environment for sustainable cocoa.
    • Should support and strengthen cooperatives.
  • Impact investors
    • Should be thorough in the analysis and selection of investments to maximize impact and look critically at the cost of reporting.
    • Should take up a role as educators of their own shareholders.
    • Define how to collaborate pre competitively as impact investors.
  • Universities & knowledge institutions
    • Should do research that contributes to the Beyond Chocolate impact goals and find ways and partnerships to distribute knowledge better.
    • Should sensitise the public on sustainable cocoa production and trade.
    • Should participate in supply chain approaches to put knowledge to practice.

These initial inputs will be used in the consultative process leading to the finalization of the theory of change. The Beyond Chocolate secretariat will reach out to the different stakeholder groups to continue the discussions and to come to a final result that will be validated by the Steering Committee.

Panel on holistic living income approaches, featuring the co-financed Beyond Chocolate projects

The event ended with a panel conversation on holistic living income approaches featuring Karen Janssens (Expert sustainable sourcing, Colruyt Group- project link), Dominique Derom (Independent working as coach for Enabel-project link), Ebe Ouattara (M&E officer at Tony’s Chocolonely- project link) and Marloes Humbeeck as moderator (Senior Program Officer Beyond Chocolate). The three speakers are involved in three projects that are supported under the Beyond Chocolate co-financing fund. The panel was structured around the IDH Roadmap on Living Incomes, a framework – including tools and resources – that helps companies take action towards closing living income gaps in five steps.

Step 1 Identify the Living Income benchmark

Karen Janssens explained how the decision was made within Colruyt Group to start their living income project and how the company identified where and with which farmers to start. She explained the biggest challenge was to find alignment between the buying and sustainability departments within the organization. It was decided to start with a small-scale project, including 120 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and linking to one specific Boni tablet. The pilot was seen as a learning journey. If successful, Colruyt Group would upscale the approach. The monitoring and learning component were therefore crucial parts of the project.

Step 2-3: Assessing the living income gap and verifying calculations.

The panel then focused on the importance of knowing the living income benchmark and collecting reliable income date. Dominique Derom explained that Galler, Enabel, Fairtrade and the cooperative Yeyasso bundled efforts to execute a living income analysis of 650 cocoa farmers in the Yeyasso cooperative. They used the Fairtrade farm record tool methodology to collect income data. This means that farmers receive bookets in which they can note down on a weekly basis their income from cocoa and other crops, expenditures, labour costs,… She explained analphabetism was a major challenge. Therefore, coaches were appointed to support farmers.

Dominique stressed the importance of giving cooperatives ownership of the data, as this allows them to get better insights on what is earned and spent and to identify remediation activities. Ebe Ouattara agreed with Dominique on the importance of actively involving the cooperative and making them owners of their data. He also added that stakeholder should explore data sharing opportunities to increase efficiencies in the sector.

Step 4-5: Close the living income gap, track progress and share learnings

The panel agreed that to close living income gaps, holistic approaches working on all different income drivers are needed (price, productivity, diversification, land size, cost of production). Both Karen and Ebe stressed the huge influence paying the Living Income Reference Price has on closing living income gaps. As such, Karen explained that an impact study of the Colruyt project showed the payment of the LIRP alone increased cocoa revenue by 38%. Ebe explained he sees the payment of the LIRP as well as long-term contracts as a foundation, as these activities support farmers to invest in their farms.

The panel ended with a few positive updated:

  • The Open Chain has continued to attract new mission allies, showing the demand for living income cocoa is growing.
  • Yeyasso is building a chocolate factory in Côte d’Ivoire for its own quality organic beans, thus increasing ownership and value for farmers.
  • Colruyt Group has decided to upscale the pilot project, now paying the LIRP for all Boni tablets.

Philippe de Selliers then ended the event by thanking all partners for joining and calling on them to continue the good work.