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Tackling deforestation with data, Cargill maps its cocoa supply chain

February 12, 2019

With the world’s appetite for chocolate showing no sign of slowing down, questions about the sector’s sustainability continue to crop up. In an effort to stop and reverse forest loss, Cargill and World Resources Institute (WRI) created a partnership to mitigate risks.

In 2017, we conducted our first assessment across five origin countries to evaluate habitat type and tree cover loss. These assessments now serve as the baseline against which we will measure progress towards eliminating deforestation from our supply chain.

“Good measurement is the first step to enable more targeted and effective risk management and long-term solutions across the cocoa supply chain,” said WRI research analyst Caroline Winchester.

Since 2017, WRI has analyzed 77,145 mapped farms covering an area of 188,065 hectares within Cargill’s direct cocoa supply chain using the Global Forest Watch platform. Cargill was able to provide more granular locations of farms thanks to rapidly progressing with farm mapping. Over the time period of 2008-2017, these cocoa farms experienced 11,836 hectares of tree cover loss, which represents a 7.3% decrease in the original tree cover extent that existed within these farms in 2000. These insights help us to monitor and report on the extent of deforestation risk in our direct supply chain and allow us to take targeted actions.

Framework for action

In 2014, Cargill was among the multinational companies to sign the New York Declaration of Forests followed by us establishing our first global Policy on Forests in 2015. In 2017 we aligned our environmental goals with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In March 2017, Cargill became one of the first signatories to the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI), the coalition between cocoa sector players and advocacy groups that laid the groundwork for the announcement at COP23, the U.N. climate conference that took place in Bonn, Germany in November that year.

Under the framework, the countries and companies have committed to protecting forests and restoring degraded land including a commitment of “no further conversion” of any forest land in Ghana and Ivory Coast for cocoa production.  To that end, we are working together to build sustainable, traceable supply chains under the motto “more cocoa from less land.”

The parties are working to produce up-to-date maps detailing land-use and socio-economic data on cocoa farmers that can be used to track and ultimately end deforestation in the cocoa supply chain.

Plan to end deforestation

We believe that eliminating deforestation in the cocoa supply chain is imperative; not only to protect our planet’s natural resources, but also to safeguard the income potential  of smallholder cocoa farmers and ensure a sustainable supply of cocoa for generations to come.

In December of 2018, Cargill introduced an action plan to eliminate deforestation from our cocoa supply chain. This is the first comprehensive plan to tackle the challenge of deforestation in the cocoa supply chain, and forms part of Cargill’s efforts to foster a more sustainable cocoa sector.

The Protect Our Planet Strategic Action Plan provides concrete actions that Cargill is taking to map our supply chains, integrate improved cocoa farming practices including agroforestry pilots, and engage communities in protecting natural resources. The plan also expands Cargill’s forest efforts to 5 origin countries (Brazil, Indonesia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana) as well as the indirect cocoa supply chain. 

Ongoing mapping work has advanced Cargill’s commitment to map all farms in our direct supply chain, using geolocation to monitor deforestation risks. This mapping, combined with traceability technology such as bar-coding bags of beans, can help us trace beans back to individual farms to make sure no cocoa comes from protected areas.

Cargill believes that forests and farming can and must coexist in order to sustain the health of people and our planet. We’re proud of the strategy we’re deploying in cocoa and will continue to share learnings and progress for the betterment of the industry as a whole.