Sustainable Coconut Roundtable-partnerships pursue climate actions
October 7, 2021 (BANGKOK) – Less than one year after the landmark launch of the Sustainable Coconut Charter, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Green Invest Asia, global cocoa manufacturer Barry Callebaut, and the German Development Agency (GIZ) reconvened on September 29 more than 100 participants – almost all from the private sector, representing nearly 80 institutions — to start implementing the charter’s sustainability principles.
“The launch and the signing of the Sustainable Coconut Charter was the first important step,” said Massimo Selmo, Chief Procurement Officer for Barry Callebaut, one of the seven founding signatories. “Now it is time to take action and transform its principles into concrete actions on the ground…as a collective group and working together, we have the ability to create a movement and ultimately, create change” Current signatories account for almost half the annual global trade volume of coconut, and include: AAK, Barry Callebaut, Friesland Campina, Froneri, Harmless Harvest, JDE Peets, Nestlé, and Unilever.
The charter’s guiding principles include improving producers’ livelihoods and supply chain transparency, while mitigating climate change impacts and avoiding deforestation. This charter is the coconut industry’s first attempt to harmonize buyers’ requirements and collaborate to honor global climate commitments, while boosting farmer livelihoods and coconut supply to meet global demand.
Roel Rosales, Deputy Administrator in operations with the Philippine Coconut Authority said he could not “overemphasize the need for the platform [roundtable]” to improve livelihoods of coconut smallholder producers, who are among the most vulnerable to price and climate shocks; the Philippines is one of two leading coconut producers worldwide. In a live survey conducted during the virtual roundtable, respondents identified the top priority to address, collectively, was “improving coconut smallholder income and livelihoods.” Rosales emphasized that while price premiums are important for producers, even more needed is to “show them how to sustain their land”.
GIZ coordinates seven companies (including three signatories of the Sustainable Coconut Charter) that have formed the Strategic Coconut Alliance for Coconut Oil Production in the Philippines. “This project can also be seen as a result of roundtable discussions,” said Cornelia Skokov, GIZ’s chief advisor for private sector partnerships. The companies and GIZ have agreed to co-invest $7 million euros ($8.1 million USD) to train some 10,000 coconut farmers in the southern Philippines on sustainable land use and Good Agriculture Practices that are aligned with the Sustainable Coconut Charter’s principles and goals.
Another initiative furthered through roundtable meetings is Barry Callebaut and Nestlé’s collaboration with the NGO ProForest to create a framework based on the Sustainable Coconut Charter that assesses environmental and social risks in the coconut supply chain for what will become an industry supplier “scorecard”. Once the scoring matrix is finalized, it will be made available for all companies in the coconut value chain to conduct assessments, in the hopes of preventing duplicate reporting and multiple audits conducted in the same production area. The roundtable’s main benefit is to “bring companies together… to create one voice, one set of requirements…[so] it’s the same language we are speaking [with suppliers],” said Nestlé’s Global Sustainable Sourcing Leader for sugar and coconut, Madeleine Eilert. Barry Callebaut’s Director, Global Ingredients Sustainability, Oliver von Hagen, said the scorecard in development is “the first concrete action to make the charter a reality in supply chains.”
Christy Owen, head of USAID Green Invest Asia, a technical assistance hub in Southeast Asia that is scaling climate-smart agriculture and forestry business models in Southeast Asia through capital matchmaking and technical advisory, and the current roundtable’s de factor secretariat, presented a proposal to form a small task force that will set an implementation roadmap to formalize the roundtable with a membership and governance structure, legal registration, and financial operating model.
USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia’s Environment Office Director, Aaron Brownell, said: “Our goal is to assist the charter in setting up a governance structure so that the industry carries this forum forward, advancing partnerships and actions that exemplifies sustainable production for a low-carbon world.”
The roundtable recording and presentation are available here.
Anyone wishing to join the new task force should submit materials to USAID Green Invest Asia by October 25; terms of reference for the task force can be downloaded at https://www.sustainablecoconutcharter.com/signcoconutcharter.