Cocoa sustainability


We all love chocolate and we want it to be around forever. But to do that, sustainable chocolate should become the norm. That is why Barry Callebaut has found bold new ways of doing business and bringing partners together to make it happen

Chocolate is a delicious product that brings joy to chocolate lovers. It also creates employment and value for many people and countries across the globe. There are, however, structural issues in the chocolate value chain:

  • Low productivity on cocoa farms as a result of poor agricultural practices, nutrient depleted soil, and aging cocoa trees is keeping many farmers in a state of poverty.
  • Poverty prevents cocoa farmers from investing in their farms and new practices to increase productivity that would boost their incomes.
  • In addition, poverty keeps farmers from hiring professional workers, forcing them to rely on their family members, including their children, to work the fields. As a result, the future generation of cocoa farmers, deprived of their childhood and education, will not be empowered to break this vicious cycle.

Sustainable chocolate requires more than sustainable cocoa. It requires achieving zero net deforestation and curbing carbon emissions for the production of any chocolate ingredient or chocolate product. In order to secure the future of chocolate, all the actors in the chocolate value chain need to unite behind a common ambition and step up their efforts to address these structural issues.

Building upon existing initiatives

Barry Callebaut has a long-standing commitment to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. Through interactions with farmer cooperatives in origin countries, as well as through direct sourcing and farm services organization, Biolands, the company has invested and engaged in productivity and community development for the past decade. The premiums from the sale of its sustainable HORIZONS cocoa and chocolate products flow 100 per cent to the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, funding initiatives to improve smallholder cocoa farmer livelihoods through a mission-driven, non-profit organisation.


Cocoa is typically produced by smallholder farmers in remote equatorial areas. Most of the world’s cocoa volume comes from West Africa, the area that faces the industry’s most vital sustainability challenges. Cocoa sustainability is firmly embedded in the company’s business strategy. Barry Callebaut is  expanding its activities on the ground and aligning with industry peers in order to improve yields and livelihoods.

Sustainable cocoa is one of the four pillars of Barry Callebaut’s corporate strategy, alongside Expansion, Innovation, and Cost Leadership. Barry Callebaut believes that cocoa production is sustainable when farmers:

  • earn an equitable income;
  • engage in responsible labor practices;
  • safeguard the environment; and
  • can provide for the basic health and education needs and well-being of their families.


Understanding from which area and farmer the company is sourcing, “traceability” is a key parameter in assessing the quality of yields and production methods. In addition, it also allows it to tackle sustainability challenges such as deforestation and child labour in the cocoa supply chain in a much more targeted manner. This year, the company started to roll out a farm data management system, project Katchilè, across 65,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa. This cloud-based data management system allows it to be in contact with farmers in near real-time, offering an unprecedented level of transparency in the sourcing of its cocoa beans. In the coming years it will be extending this tool across Ghana, Tanzania and Indonesia.

Sourcing cocoa sustainably

201703eh52Working with cocoa farmer cooperatives, Barry Callebaut’s cocoa sustainability team includes trainers, ecologists, agronomists, geographers, controllers, and auditors. In Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon, the team works with 92 cooperatives, representing 77,700 cocoa farmers, to implement cocoa sustainability programmes. This allows farmers to produce beans that can be sold under a sustainability scheme, which brings them a financial premium.

In parallel, the Biolands Group is Barry Callebaut’s direct sourcing enterprise for sustainable cocoa. The Biolands Group works directly with 45,000 farmers and village coordinators to provide training, inputs such as fertilisers, support, and assistance in the production of certified cocoa.

Improving cocoa productivity and developing communities

In order to improve the productivity on cocoa farms, the company has put in place a robust training infrastructure to disseminate good agricultural practices: one Cocoa Center of Excellence, 55 demonstration plots and 989 farmer field schools. Barry Callebaut works to improve access to education, promote child protection, empower women, and address basic health needs such as access to water and sanitation.

Sustainable cocoa products

201703eh53To respond to customer requests for sustainable cocoa products, Barry Callebaut offers cocoa products both from certified sources (mainly UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance) and from its own Cocoa Horizons Programme. Horizons products are chocolate or cocoa products sold by Barry Callebaut which support cocoa sustainability activities. Horizons cocoa is sourced from farmers who participate in these activities in Côte d’Ivoire.

Barry Callebaut is also a member of industry trade associations such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), that sponsor and promote various projects, research, and working groups that focus on sustainability and child labor issues in the cocoa sector.

In June 2014, Barry Callebaut was one of the 12 companies which committed to CocoaAction, an unprecedented industry strategy to modernise the cocoa sector. Barry Callebaut also organises Chocovision, the only business-for-business conference in the cocoa value chain, bringing together nearly 200 key stakeholders from around the world.