Feature Story

How food companies can protect forests and the oceans

February 23, 2018

Ghana supplies about 20% of the world’s cocoa and has one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa, at 3.2% per annum. To address this, Mondelēz International created an environmental focus area in our sustainable cocoa sourcing program, Cocoa Life. Photo: Aedka Studio/Shutterstock

By Jonathan Horrell, director global sustainability, Mondelēz International

Every day, I watch a microcosm of the battle to protect the global commons taking place outside my garden gate here in England. I live on a common – a traditional British land tenure system where land is privately owned but communally managed. Commoners share the rights and responsibilities of free access to a shared resource.

But the system is starting to crack – people who live here (me included) work away, no longer depend on local resources and have different expectations. Dog walking, summer picnics and horse-riding have overtaken food production as a priority, and the common is suffering as a result.

Scale this up to the global level and you capture the challenge of protecting the world’s atmosphere, oceans and forests. The responsibility lies with everyone and no-one, so conditions inevitably deteriorate.

As a food business, this matters to Mondelēz International. We depend on healthy ecosystems to produce sustainable supplies of agricultural raw materials for our snacks – chocolate brands like Milka, Cadbury and Cote d’Or; or Oreo and LU biscuits.

Our company’s future is rooted in helping people to snack in a balanced way and to enjoy life with products that are safely and sustainably sourced, produced, and delivered. So we promote the wellbeing of our colleagues, communities, farmers, and consumers while making smart and sustainable use of natural resources to reduce our environmental footprint.

We call this Impact for Growth – our commitment to driving business growth with positive change in the world.

If we are to make lasting positive impact in the world’s forests and oceans, we need partners. So we always aim to scale up our actions with partnerships to address root causes and drive sector-wide change.

Deforestation makes up the largest part of our carbon footprint. We’re committed to address it in our key sourcing programs, such as Cocoa Life and our Palm Oil Action Plan (pdf).

Ghana supplies about 20% of the world’s cocoa and has one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa, at 3.2% per annum. To address this, we created an environmental focus area in our sustainable cocoa sourcing program, Cocoa Life. We train farmers to produce more cocoa on less land and support communities to protect their local forests. And we work with Global Forest Watch to monitor our efforts to protect forests. Yet, though these actions are important, they only reach the communities where we source cocoa. We want to go further.

Ghanaians say: “If you want to go quickly, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together.” So we formed a cross-sectoral partnership with the Ghanaian government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the government’s national forest protection strategy under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) REDD+ framework.

The Forestry Commission of Ghana and Ghana Cocoa Board will oversee its implementation and promote climate-smart cocoa production; UNDP will share technical expertise; and, through Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International will contribute $5m over five years and lead projects on the ground.

We also played a leading role in forming the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, a collaborative, multi-stakeholder framework addressing deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain. We unveiled this at the UNFCCC’s COP23 in Bonn in 2017 along with governments and 11 other cocoa and chocolate companies. Together, we will create a joint action plan to fight deforestation in Ghana and Ivory Coast – the world’s two largest cocoa producers.

It is also important for us to make commitments to source palm oil sustainably. But that is not enough on its own: the situation is too complex, So we are working with UNDP, the government of Indonesia and other partners to support the country’s National Action Plan for palm oil. This will help strengthen smallholder farmers, support national policy reform and reduce deforestation through public-private partnerships.

Looking to the oceans, we’re very attuned to the current debate around pollution from plastic waste. We will continue to optimise our packaging to reduce material while minimising food waste. About 95% of our packaging is already recycled, recyclable - or ready for recycling, given the right facilities – and we continue to seek opportunities for more.

We estimate that we account for less than 0.25% of the global packaging market, so it is important that we work with partners to scale up our efforts. We participate in the Consumer Goods Forum’s work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy project that seeks to ensure plastic packaging can be recovered and have a valuable second life. And we work with the Trash Free Seas Alliance – an effort to catalyze action to stop the flow of plastic into the world’s oceans.

We all need to play our part. If we are to succeed in the long term, all these partnerships must capture the spirit of shared rights and responsibilities that made the English commons flourish.