Q&A: World Cocoa Foundation Celebrates 10 Years

Food Manufacturing spoke with Bill Guyton, President of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which celebrated its 10th anniversary in October.

Q: What is the main purpose of the WCF?

A:: The WCF is an international membership foundation that promotes a sustainable cocoa economy by providing cocoa farmers with the tools they need to grow more and better cocoa, market it successfully and make greater profits. These efforts help increase the supply of cocoa and help guarantee chocolate lovers access to their favorite products.

WCF was created ten years ago by a group of chocolate companies who recognized the need to provide cocoa farmers with support to maintain their crop, including techniques to control diseases and pests that attack their cocoa trees. At the time, such diseases were spreading to major cocoa-producing countries at an unusually fast pace, threatening the well-being of independent farm families. Over the years, WCF’s work was expanded to also address other issues affecting cocoa farmers and their families. Today, promoting a sustainable cocoa economy remains as important as ever. WCF is proud to work with its more than 70 members to improve the lives of cocoa-farming families worldwide.

Q: How has the cocoa industry changed in the last decade?

A:  Over the past decade, I have observed a growing, proactive approach of chocolate companies to become engaged on supply chain issues. In 2000, companies were investing in applied cocoa research, but had limited knowledge and understanding of how to work collectively and with public sector partners to provide improved technical skills to cocoa farmers. Today we see many companies actively engaged in programs to address the social, environmental and economic conditions for the small-scale cocoa farming families who grow the crop.

Q: What are some of your most memorable accomplishments in the last 10 years?

A: It’s been a privilege to lead the organization from its creation and to see progress on so many different levels. We’ve seen the WCF membership grow from the original group of seven companies to more than 70 today, with truly global representation and companies of all sizes, including cocoa and chocolate manufacturers, processors, supply chain managers and others. We’ve seen public–private partnerships blossom as companies, governments, private foundations, international institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and research institutes globally have come together under the WCF umbrella in support of cocoa farmers, their families and their communities. Notables including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Finance Corporation, and the Peace Corps have joined in partnership with WCF because they see the value of our approach. Finally, and most importantly, we’ve seen improvements in the lives of cocoa farmers and their families who have participated in our programs. We know that more than 420,000 farmers around the world have been directly involved in its programs over the last decade, and some have increased their incomes by as much as 50 percent. And we know that the real impact of our programs is far greater, thanks to farm cooperatives, models and demonstration projects established based on WCF-supported efforts. 
Q: Sustainability has become a popular issue in the food industry. What has the foundation done to promote sustainability in the cocoa industry?

A: Sustainability has always been an important part of WCF’s work, ever since the foundation’s creation a decade ago. WCF’s sustainability platform is built around three guiding principles: people, which for WCF means healthy and thriving cocoa-farming households and communities; planet, which includes responsible, sound environmental stewardship; and profit, which focuses on improved and more equitable economic returns to cocoa farmers.

Q: Child labor has become a hot button issue in the cocoa industry. How is the foundation addressing this?

A: WCF is strongly committed to elimination of the worst child labor abuses. WCF is a signatory to the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol, which commits the cocoa and chocolate industry to working with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to eradicate the worst child labor abuses. WCF believes that child labor is usually a symptom of wider problems, including poverty. WCF programs expand educational opportunities for youth, provide basic literacy training, agricultural knowledge, leadership skills and vocational education. WCF believes helping the entire farm family will improve conditions for the children, and works with its partners to increase educational opportunity for all family members. We work collaboratively with other technical partners such as UNICEF and ILO/IPEC, who have expertise on child labor awareness and prevention. 

Q: Several large confectionary companies like Kraft and Hershey are members of your foundation. How does the member-foundation relationship work?

A:  We have the same relationship with all of our members, regardless of company size, and we are proud of the fact that all members play an important role in WCF’s governance. WCF plays a unique role as a convener of all of these stakeholders, along with the other public and private sector partners noted above, in support of cocoa farmers and a sustainable cocoa economy worldwide. Some members have described WCF as the place where competitors can collaborate in meaningful ways. WCF’s work is about helping cocoa farmers, their families and their communities. This in turn helps the industry by helping to provide a sustainable supply of cocoa.

Q: What does the foundation hope to accomplish for the industry in the future?

A:  WCF’s goals for the next decade are framed around what can be accomplished for cocoa farmers, their families and their communities. WCF’s goal is not to enroll every cocoa farmer in one of its programs, but rather, to help improve the quality of life for farmers and their communities while ensuring a sustainable supply of cocoa. We see the advantages of expanding our partnerships to bring in additional technical skills and resources which can enhance our programs. 

At WCF we are proud of our members and our partners, and we and look forward to working with them on innovative efforts to promote a sustainable cocoa economy.  We encourage companies and others who are not part of our partnership network to join us in this important and fulfilling work.