Clear objectives for better chocolate

We know that Chocolats Halba’s long-term success depends on us defining our processes and buying our raw materials in an economic, socially responsible and environmentally friendly manner. The company therefore pursues a comprehensive sustainability strategy throughout the entire value chain, from cocoa farmer to consumer.

Chocolats Halba is the sustainability pioneer of the Swiss chocolate industry. By launching a flagship project in Honduras in 2008, it laid down the first milestone in the development of its wide-ranging commitment to sustainability. The aim of the project was and still is to revive the thousand-year-old cocoa tradition that Hurricane Mitch destroyed in just a few days in 1998.

“In recent years, we have succeeded in establishing Honduras in the market as a source of sustainable premium cocoa and contributing to a better standard of living for farmers with fair prices. We now need to support these farmers in further increasing the productivity of their farms.”

Luis Velex, Head of Chocolats Halba Honduras

Within four years of launching the first sustainability project in Honduras, the company succeeded in setting some more remarkable milestones in its commitment to sustainability; for example, buying virtually all its cocoa beans from fair-trade sources, reducing the greenhouse gases generated in chocolate production by around a quarter and offsetting the remaining emissions within its own value chain.

Comprehensive sustainability strategy

In 2012, Chocolats Halba drew up its first comprehensive sustainability strategy. Our aim was to further strengthen our sustainability efforts and systematically integrate them into the core business. This was done by wording specific objectives and general sustainability principles. In extensive interviews and surveys, external stakeholders also had a say for the first time. These included customers, suppliers, authorities and NGOs. Coop played a special role here. As our parent company, it is also our biggest customer and sponsor of sustainability projects.

The result of this broad-based process was the 2013–2015 sustainability strategy, which was based on the four pillars of “Sustainable sourcing”, “Corporate ecology”, “Employees” and “Sustainable products and services” throughout the length of the value chain (see figure). For each pillar we defined main focuses, which were broken down into key measures, strategic objectives and indicators (KPIs). At the same time, we implemented a sustainability management system that defines clear responsibilities and includes systematic progress monitoring. The strategy also stipulates that each member of management should be given a sustainability-related annual target.

Business partners in duty

Our sustainability efforts also involve Chocolats Halba’s business partners. For example, all our suppliers are bound by our “Socio-ethical and ecological procurement” guidelines and by the Coop Code of Conduct.

For instance, the Coop Code of Conduct states: “We treat our suppliers as business partners and demonstrate loyalty and a spirit of partnership. In this way we seek to bring about close cooperation based on mutual trust and respect. We seek to build up performance-oriented and value-adding long-term partnerships that demonstrate sustainable prospects of development for Coop and suppliers alike”.

Chocolats Halba is a partner that can be relied upon, but in return it does make some demands. The sourcing guidelines make it clear that we expect our business partners and their subcontractors “to respect the local environmental and social legislation in their production plants and operations.”

In line with risk, we require our business partners to provide proof that they check compliance with their subcontractors. The sourcing guidelines also stipulate that preference will be given to business partners who reduce the environmental impact of their products over and above the legal minimum.

Binding guidelines until 2020

The sustainability strategy drawn up in 2012 is still applicable today. At the end of 2016, Chocolats Halba’s divisional management updated the objectives and measures, which are now binding until 2020. Based on experience gained, we also adjusted the focal points of our commitment and revised the materiality matrix. As part of a survey conducted by the “Hochschule Luzern”, internal and external stakeholders were once again able to have their say. One result of this process is that Chocolats Halba is now getting even more involved in supporting women and young people.

It was not only stakeholders and the superordinate multi-annual sustainability targets of Coop that had a major influence on defining our sustainability strategy, but also internationally developed initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiatives, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the International Labour Organization’s guidelines. Whenever possible, Chocolats Halba takes account of these broad-based standards in its own principles and reporting.

When dealing with environmental matters, we are guided in particular by the precautionary principle, not least because when procuring agricultural raw materials, we rely to a large extent on intact ecosystems.