Sustainable cocoa & sugar

We will source sugar and cocoa sustainably by 2020.

Our use of cocoa & sugar

Cocoa accounts for around 4% of our total volume of agricultural raw materials. We buy 1% of global production, 95% of which is used in our ice cream, including in our biggest global ice cream brand Magnum and in Ben & Jerry’s.

Sugar accounts for about 6% of our total volume of agricultural raw materials. We use sugar cane and sugar beet in a range of products, such as ready-to-drink teas and ice creams.

How can cocoa cultivation be improved?

Cocoa is farmed on 18 million acres of tropical land, mostly by smallholder farmers, sometimes working in co-operatives. Around 40 million people, including 4 million farmers, earn their living from cocoa cultivation.

Many farmers lack access to training and other services, and as a result their farms are not very productive. Poor yields and income can lead to indebtedness and poverty so farmers often resort to harmful practices, such as clearing forested land for new planting to increase their yields or using child labour, thus preventing children from attending school to gain an education.

Sustainable farming practices that address environmental, social and economic issues can help to solve many of the problems associated with cocoa farming.

Targets &performance

Sustainable cocoa

  • We will source cocoa sustainably for our Magnum ice cream by 2015. All other cocoa will be sourced sustainably by 2020.
  • 64% of cocoa for Magnum sustainably sourced through Rainforest Alliance certification by end 2012. Overall, 43% of all cocoa sourced sustainably.
  • achieved
  • on-plan
  • off-plan
  • %of target achieved

On pack and online, Magnum explains to consumers why it has opted for Rainforest Alliance certification – to source high-quality cocoa beans, increase the income of farmers and deliver social benefits such as improved health and safety practices.

Working with Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit conservation organisation that works in a number of areas, including sustainable cocoa farming. We are working with the organisation to ensure that the farmers in the cocoa supply chain for our Magnum ice cream can achieve the standards that Rainforest Alliance certification requires, and that we can achieve our sustainable sourcing targets.

Rainforest Alliance certifies cocoa according to the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards. These standards cover ecosystem conservation, worker rights (including the prohibition of child labour) and safety, wildlife protection, water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing, and legal wages and contracts for workers. We pay the farmers a premium for cocoa beans that are certified sustainable. Once certification is achieved, we can use the Rainforest Alliance logo on our packs to reassure our consumers that the cocoa was produced sustainably.

To achieve certification, we are working with 20,000 small farmers across West Africa. Our strategic supply partner, Barry Callebaut, conducts Farmer Field Schools which are used to train cocoa farmers. Farmers learn how to increase the productivity of their farms and how to improve the quality of their cocoa. The trainers are external experts specialised in cocoa production. Farmers who have been trained, in turn, train other farmers in the cooperative and encourage more farmers to follow the programme.

As well as increasing the availability of sustainably produced cocoa, we are keen to work with Rainforest Alliance to assess the impact that more sustainable practices have in areas ranging from health and education, women’s empowerment and family welfare, to farm performance and environmental protection. We will review these impacts regularly as we move towards our targets.

Working with suppliers

In 2012 we signed a long-term partnership agreement with Barry Callebaut, a supplier of high-quality cocoa products. The company will become our strategic global supplier and innovation partner of choice for our cocoa and chocolate needs.

The partnership will create a step change in our ability to source sustainable cocoa and over time we expect the company to supply up to 70% of our cocoa and chocolate products. This will be achieved under a wide-ranging joint business development plan involving close co-operation across the areas of innovation, sustainable sourcing, capacity expansion and value improvement. Barry Callebaut will invest approximately €18 million in its worldwide factory network in order to prepare the capacity needed to fulfil the long-term partnership agreement.

Targets & performance

Sustainable sugar

  • We will source all sugar sustainably by 2020.
  • 8% of sugar sustainably sourced by end 2012.
  • achieved
  • on-plan
  • off-plan
  • %of target achieved

Unilever has joined the Bonsucro roundtable, a not-for-profit initiative that is dedicated to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugar cane production.

In December 2012, we purchased the first-ever Bonsucro sustainable sugar credits in Brazil. Although we are not a major buyer of sugar, we were the first Bonsucro member to buy credits as we are committed to the sustainable production of sugar.

In 2012, we also sourced our first sugar from beet farmers in France, Germany and the Netherlands. This was verified according to our Sustainable Agriculture Code.

Bonsucro accreditation

Unilever is not a large purchaser of sugar on the world stage, but we want the sugar that we do purchase to be sustainable. For this reason, we are working with our Brazilian supplier, Usina São João (USJ), to source certified sugar. The social and environmental credentials of USJ’s plantations recently received accreditation from Bonsucro.

We worked with USJ to help it achieve certification. To carry the Bonsucro seal, USJ had to train its farmers, implement internal audits and make infrastructure improvements, among other measures. The most significant challenge comprised developing a system to trace its sugar cane from the field to the mill and then to our factories.

Our first order from certified sugar from USJ amounted to 3,262 tonnes. With our co-operation, two of our other major sugar suppliers – LDC Bioenergia and the New South Wales Sugar Milling Co-operative – are now Bonsucro certified too. This moves us closer to our goal of sourcing all of our sugar from sustainable sources by 2020.