Companies need business models which are sustainable, which create long-term value and which do not burden the environment at the cost of the coming generations. That is why economic goals and ecological and social responsibility have to go hand-in-hand. The concept of sustainability is based on three pillars and assumes that sustainable development requires a balance between economic, ecological and social objectives. Barry Callebaut strives to strike this balance in its business activities.
Economic sustainability in the First World
The world’s biggest chocolate producer, Barry Callebaut processes around 15 percent of the world’s cacao harvest. Cacao grows mostly in countries which are politically and economically not very stable. Economic goals and social responsibility have to go hand-in-hand, and economic sustainability also requires the development of “sustainable products” – which meet the needs of consumers responsibly.
Economic sustainability in the Third World
In order to make economic goals and social responsibility go hand-in-hand, Barry Callebaut pays close attention to the social conditions under which their most important raw material, cacao, is produced in the countries of the third world. About 40% of the global cacao harvest comes from Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cacao growing country. Cocoa represents about 40 percent of Ivory Coast’s GDP and is thus a very important economic factor. In Ivory Coast alone, around one million farmers cultivate cacao, mostly on small family farms.
Instead of buying its cocoa on the commodity market, Barry Callebaut is present in the cacao growing countries with its own sourcing organizations and factories. Every year the company increases the percentage of cocoa it buys directly in the countries of origin, such as the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon or Brazil, and buys less on the international markets. That allows for an improved quality monitoring and traceability.
The chocolate industry is very energy and transportation intensive. Barry Callebaut produces and transports over a million tons of cocoa and chocolate products annually. The energy bill is about one-sixth of the production costs. To aim to produce CO2-neutrally in the near future would be unrealistic. The goal, however, is to reduce the CO2-emissions by 20 percent per ton by 2014.
Barry Callebaut is making a significant contribution to protecting the environment by processing more than 50% of the cocoa it uses in the countries of origin. The shell of the cacao beans together with the residual moisture comprises about 20% of the total weight. Cocoa processing in the origin countries avoids the transportation of this waste material to the chocolate consuming countries, thereby saving over 40,000 tons of transportation mass per year. The cocoa shells are used for local energy generation, and the steam that is produced is used in the manufacturing process of the beans.
Accordingly, the demand for gas or oil is reduced. In Ghana, for example, the burning of the shells covers the entire need for steam, in Brazil around 90 percent. In Cameroon and in a factory in Ivory Coast, this process has already been used since the early 1990s.
Just as important are the ecological projects with cacao farmers, such as a project for organic cacao plantations in Tanzania. For nine years Barry Callebaut has been cooperating with Biolands, the largest African exporter of certified organic cocoa. In the meantime Barry Callebaut has become a significant shareholder of Biolands, aiming to promote the growth of this organization. Since the establishment in 1999, Biolands has worked with over 20,000 small-holder farmers, offering them fair prices and helping them to improve the quality and value of their production. The latter includes the switch to organic farming, the education on improved farming methods, as well as increase of the family income and a better diet by growing other agricultural products such as rice, citrus fruits and mangoes.
Recently Biolands and Barry Callebaut initiated a tree planting project with 250,000 cacao trees. Besides the social and ecological advantages for the farmers, another good thing about organic cacao is that the beans are more resistant against diseases and pests.
Around 800 of the 7,000 employees of Barry Callebaut are based in cocoa growing countries. In countries where there is no welfare system, social responsibility towards co-workers goes far: Besides a regular income, the employees of Barry Callebaut and their family members benefit from free access to healthcare. Everyday a doctor is present in the factory. Employees who are HIV-positive are provided medication by the company, so that they can continue to work as usual and care for their families.
Today’s consumer demands corporate responsibility. Companies have a certain responsibility towards the entire environment. Their tasks go much further than the duties embodied in our laws. They aim for moral duties, for the good of tomorrow’s world. Barry Callebaut is a leading paradigm.
Photo credit: www.barry-callebaut.com