Report on First General Assembly Beyond Chocolate


On 4 September 2019, the first General Assembly for the Beyond Chocolate Partnership took place in Brussels, Belgium. The purpose of the meeting was to create a common understanding of the overarching themes of the Beyond Chocolate partnership that was signed at 5 December 2018 and served as a starting point for the technical working groups. All signatories of Beyond Chocolate were invited to attend and participate in the plenary and breakout sessions.

Summary of the meeting

Opening and welcome

Patrick Hautphenne, chair of the Steering Committee, opened the meeting by expressing his appreciation for the newly developed branding of the Partnership and introducing IDH’s Senior Program Manager Els Haelterman. He stressed that Beyond Chocolate wants to have real impact. We should work towards the 2030 targets, a Living Income and Zero Deforestation for the Belgian cocoa and chocolate sector. These ambitious targets can only be achieved if all the partners strongly cooperate, with all players from the whole supply chain. Afterwards, Patrick Hautphenne invited Nestlé and Samilia Foundation as the new signatories to sign the Partnership and asked the Steering Committee members to introduce themselves:

  • Mieke Vercaeren from retailer Colruyt ;
  • Wouder Vandersypen from Social Impact Investor Kampani, who focuses on long-term finance for farm-based cooperatives;
  • Charles Snoeck from Fairtrade Belgium;
  • Jean-Jacques Bastien from the Directorate-General Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid works in the Belgian ministry on the private sector involvement;
  • Wouter Vanhove represented professor Patrick Van Damme who works in the tropical and subtropical agriculture department of the Ghent University.

After the Steering Committee members introduced themselves, Patrick presented the timeline for the rest of the year. Beyond Chocolate’s Program Manager Els Haelterman introduced the agenda of the day, important upcoming activities like the Call for Proposals at the end of the year and the Working Group activities.

Plenary sessions on Living Income, Deforestation and Youth and Decent Work

The meeting followed by deep dives on the three key areas of Beyond Chocolate by guest speakers.

Kristin Komives from ISEAL introduced the Living Income concept based on her role within the Living Income Community of Practice. The Living Income concept, as defined by the Living Income Community of Practice should be seen as a concept around the household and defines a decent standard of living based on all sources of income and costs. The difference between a Living Income and what the household currently earns is defined as the Living Income gap and always depends on the different contexts like household construction, location, etc. When trying to close the Living Income gap, the different sources of income beyond cocoa like other crops or extra labour wages for the household should be addressed as well. Two other concepts that are very much related to Living Income are Living Wage, which is more focused on the individual level and sustainable livelihoods.

Jordy van Honk, IDH global director agri commodities presented his experiences and lessons learned across commodities on Living Wage and Living Income. IDH worked on Living Wage in Malawi Tea 2020, the Dutch IMVO covenant on bananas and flowers, and has developed tools like the Salary Matrix. In the Malawi Tea 2020 coalition, the aim is to close the Living Wage gap. It was an extremely complex process, but by working all together they manage to increase the wages. Unfortunately, they couldn’t close the whole gap due to changing environments like inflation or unforeseen event like the workers who came into new tax brackets or tea prices that went down.

Sylvie Bianchi from Samilia Foundation introduced aspects of child labour and forced labour to address the theme on Youth and Decent Work. There are different definitions like ‘child’, ‘right of the child’, ‘children in employment’, ‘child labour’, and ‘hazardous work’ in this theme with each its own legal consequences. She also presented a deeper explanation on important issues like that of ‘hazardous child labour’ which causes around 22,000 fatal incidents for children a year, the differences between national contexts around the legal definition in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and the differences like slave-like actions or being a slave whereas the person in the last situation doesn’t have any rights anymore. Sylvie reminded the audience that according to Sustainable Development Goal 8 child labour should be stopped in all its forms. At the same time, a high number of children are still engaged in child labour including many in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The targets according to the Harkin-Engel protocol aren’t met and therefore a multi-stakeholder approach could provide a more systemic solution.

Jochen Anthierens from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave an overview of the broader dossier on human rights. This theme is discussed in many different multilateral fora. In 2011, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were adopted by all the 193 UN member states. It consists out of three important pillars: the duty of states to protect human rights, the corporate responsibilities to respect human rights and the access to remedy. Every country had to adopt its own national action plan and Belgium started in 2013 with involving stakeholders, carrying out a baseline report and facilitating multi-stakeholder consultations. This resulted in a Belgian action plan in 2018 of which Jochen highlighted four measures: the facilitation of awareness seminars on business and human rights in other countries including Côte d’Ivoire on cocoa, creating a practical ‘toolbox’ for Belgian companies to better comply with their duties, the development of brochures on remedy measures, and encouraging supply chain management through public private partnerships like Beyond Chocolate. The action plan is now being evaluated towards the launch of a 2.0 version next year. Lastly, Jochen addressed the development of the legal framework on due diligence for companies to foresee on human rights in their supply chain in which the European Union is also involved.

IDH’s senior program manager Violaine Berger presented the Cocoa & Forests Initiative that aims to tackle deforestation in the main cocoa growing areas. The initiative started after a massive loss of forest due to agriculture and mainly cocoa in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire was recognized. Companies and governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire came together in 2017 and agreed to end deforestation in the cocoa supply chain. Afterwards Colombia followed, while a similar commitment in Cameroon is expected to be signed at the end of the year. In the initiatives in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire the ministries take the lead and the company’s action plans towards 2022 were presented earlier this year. IDH acts as secretariat and convenes the public-private-CSO partnership. The mandate of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative is about protection, restoration, accountability and communication, but the action plans are the real responsibilities of the companies and government bodies. She concluded by explaining that if new partners want to join, they must adhere to the rules of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative.

Cedric van Cutsem, the associate director of Mondelēz presented the Mondelēz signature program Cocoa Life. The ambition is to have 100% of their chocolate sustainably sourced through the Cocoa Life program. The program is based on three main pillars: cocoa farming as a prosperous business, empowerment and inclusion of cocoa communities and conservation and restoration of forests. Cedric explained the important elements needed to ensure zero deforestation. Traceability and transparency are enabled through mapping protected areas and to see where the Cocoa Life registered farmers are based. With GPS technologies and people operating on the ground, they can verify if farmers violate commitments made in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. Another important element is that all interventions have to make economic sense to the farmer’s and communities. The Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) support the adoption of agroforestry and contain six defined steps. The last important action is is their proactive support for collective actions like the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. Multiple sectors besides the cocoa sector need to be involved and therefore landscape approaches could help to join forces, prevent duplications and unlocking necessary funds.

Working group sessions

After a break, three breakout sessions were organized. The goal was to gather participants’ input for the process towards defining the interim targets in the coming months.

The breakout session on the Living Income working group was facilitated by Norma Tregurtha from ISEAL. The main outcomes of the session were the importance of measuring progress and accurate reporting. Discussing about price should not be a taboo. Lastly, the interlinkages between the different main Beyond Chocolate themes, important stakeholders, and the creation of a level playing field should be considered.

Violaine Berger from IDH facilitated the break-out session on Deforestation. The main suggestions were a proper identification of the current status by mapping forests and make concrete what action plans the partnership will use when reflecting this in the indicators. Additionally, good traceability systems are key for monitoring and accountability matters.

The working group on Youth and Decent Work was facilitated by Sylvie Bianchi from Samilia Foundation. The key takeaways from that group were that there is a strong linkage with the Living Income working group since income is a cause of child labor. Another important outcome was the overall alignment with other important consuming and producing countries on one hand and with other corporate and NGO initiatives, including sharing data, on the other hand.

Conclusion and next steps

The first General Assembly was an important step in the implementation phase after signing the partnership in December 2018. The most important steps towards the end of this year are the definition of the interim targets, development of the accountability framework and the launch of the call for proposals.


General Assembly Powerpoint presentations pdf click here