The World Cocoa Foundation hosted its sold-out Partnership Meeting Oct. 26-27 in Brussels, which yielded new commitments on making cocoa supply chains more sustainable and achieving more impact in helping farmers gain a living income.

The WCF closeed registration early because of unexpectedly large demand for the sustainability organization’s first in-person gathering in three years. The event brought together governments, cocoa-growing communities, civil society and companies focused on raising farmer incomes, reducing child and forced labor and reversing deforestation. 

“We are excited to have had more than 350 stakeholders here with the shared ambition of creating a thriving and sustainable cocoa sector with the well-being of farmers and their families at the heart of everything we do,” said Chris Vincent, the WCF's new president.

Vincent was appointed as the WCF's president on Oct. 24, along with the election of Peter Boone, chief executive of Barry Callebaut, as the organization’s new chairman. This is the first time a company chief executive has taken the chairmanship.

The Partnership Meeting made progress on company commitments to make their supply chains more traceable, a key step in eliminating human rights and environmental abuses. For the first time it heard from the chief executive officers of three WCF member companies — Boone, Mark Schneider of Nestlé and Dirk van de Put of Mondelēz International — on their sustainability ambitions.

The meeting was also addressed by Heidi Hautala, vice president of the European Parliament, and by two European commissioners, Didier Reynders and Jutta Urpilainen. These European leaders told the gathering about pending European Union legislation aimed at making supply chains more sustainable.

The gathering also heard from producer countries, including Indonesia. Musdhalifa Machmud, Indonesia’s deputy minister of food and agriculture, told the meeting that producer countries need consumer countries to share in the cost of making cocoa more sustainable.

Vincent acknowledged that the absence of representatives from producer countries Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana was a missed opportunity for further progress but said the WCF would persist in its efforts to work with the two producer countries.

“Our members will continue to focus investment through their company sustainability programs, which seek to increase farmer income directly by rewarding sustainable farming practices,” Vincent said. “They will engage with the working groups established by the Cote d’Ivoire Ghana Cocoa Initiative to develop an economic pact for sustainable cocoa.”