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 and gaining 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.
  • 70% of cocoa for Magnum sustainably sourced through Rainforest Alliance certification by end 2013. Overall, 47% of all cocoa sourced sustainably.
  • achieved
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  • off-plan
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Our Perspective

Magnum is our biggest ice cream brand. It is sold in over 50 countries, more than half of which use Rainforest Alliance (RA) certified cocoa (across Europe, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand). Achieving 70% by 2013, we are making good progress towards our 2015 target.

RA 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 RA certification requires and that we can achieve our sustainable sourcing targets.

On pack and online, Magnum shares with its consumers why it has teamed up with RA: to source high-quality cocoa beans, to increase the income of farmers and to deliver social benefits such as improved health and safety practices.RA 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.

As well as increasing the availability of sustainably produced cocoa, we are keen to work with RA 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.

The main countries we source our cocoa from are the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Working with suppliers

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

The partnership created 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 cooperation 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.

To achieve RA certification, our suppliers are working with 20,000 small farmers across West Africa. Barry Callebaut runs Farmer Field Schools to train cocoa farmers in increasing the productivity of their farms and improving the quality of their cocoa. The trainers are external experts specialised in cocoa production. We pay the farmers a premium for cocoa beans that are certified sustainable. Farmers who have been trained in turn train other farmers in the co-operative and encourage more farmers to follow the programme.

Innovative harvesting process technique

At the Lomana cocoa co-operative, 160 of the co-op’s 200 farmers use Barry Callebaut's controlled fermentation harvesting process – an innovative technique applied after the harvest and during the initial critical fermentation stage. The co-op includes eight women – highly unusual in Côte d’Ivoire, where agriculture is traditionally dominated by male farmers.

Through the process, the farmers learn how to achieve consistent good quality and flavour, ensuring they receive a better price for their cocoa beans. By using these newly acquired skills, farmers can earn an additional 40 West African CFA francs (US $0.08) per bag.

Barry Callebaut’s harvesting process helps to improve the quality of the cocoa beans. It also ensures that cocoa remains a viable crop for farmers and in turn maintains a secure supply from Barry Callebaut to Unilever.

We provide funding to SourceTrust to pave the way for long-term sustainable cocoa production, whilst enhancing farmers’ businesses. SourceTrust works across the cocoa farming communities in our supply chain, delivering training facilities for use by farmers and their families, so they can learn new harvesting processing techniques.

Sustainable sugar

  • We will source all sugar sustainably by 2020.
  • 49% of sugar sustainably sourced by end 2013.
  • achieved
  • on-plan
  • off-plan
  • %of target achieved

Despite being a relatively small buyer of sugar, we purchase the most sustainable sugar of all the fast moving consumer goods companies worldwide. We have made excellent progress in 2013, reaching 49%, , up from just 8% at the end of 2012.

In Europe, we drove the agenda through verification against our Sustainable Agriculture Code and have physically transformed 54% of our sugar volumes. In July 2013, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with international NGO, Solidaridad, to further drive sustainable development in the sugar cane industry in Central America.

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 were the first Bonsucro member to buy credits of sugar. To signal to the market that we are serious about sustainable sugar, we continued to buy Bonsucro credits in 2013. We purchased- around 100,000 credits (28% of our total volume). The remainder (21%) came from sustainable and certified sources.

The main countries we source our sugar from are Brazil, India and the US.

Sustainable Sugar - A First For Kibon Ice Cream

In the Americas and Asia we have been working mainly with Bonsucro, applying a combined approach of credits and certifying supply chains.Bonsucro logo

In Brazil, alongside purchasing credits, we were the first to carry out the Bonsucro chain of custody (CoC) certification in one of our ice cream manufacturing plants. This ensures traceability of certified sugar from the production of raw materials to the consumer.

By doing this, Unilever has become the first end user in Brazil to label Bonsucro certified sugar on its Kibon ice cream, for which all sugar is sourced based on Bonsucro certification.

Achieving Bonsucro Accreditation

In November 2013, Unilever Brazil was audited and certified by the Bonsucro Chain of Custody Standards. We are working with our Brazilian supplier, Usina São João (USJ), to source certified sugar. The social and environmental credentials of USJ's plantations have 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 was developing a system to trace its sugar cane from the field to the mill and then to our factories.

Our first order for certified sugar from USJ amounted to 3,262 tonnes. With our cooperation, 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.