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Our approach to traceability
Traceability underpins all our policies and ambitions and is a prerequisite for any environmentally and socially responsible business. It enables us to monitor, strengthen and orient our actions.
Background and aims
Cocoa beans’ traceability is a crucial issue for the chocolate industry and world trade. It's an essential tool for any company that wants to commit to ethical production and consumption.
By identifying beans’ exact origin through traceability techniques, we can strengthen:
- Quality and food safety: Traceability enables us to monitor the entire production process, from the plantation to the finished product. This guarantees that the beans comply with health regulations.
- Efforts to counter child labor: It ensures that beans are not produced illegally or under abusive working conditions in areas not covered by cooperatives or NGOs.
- Sustainability and respect for the environment: traceability ensures that no bean comes from a deforested area, and helps identify areas with sustainable agricultural practices to encourage them,
- Action against fraud and illegal trade: Bean traceability helps prevent fraudulent practices such as mixing beans from different origins to charge higher prices. It also makes it possible to detect and combat illicit trade in cocoa beans, which has a negative economic impact on legitimate producers.
- The credibility of brands’ commitments.
Map of Valrhona’s cocoa sources in 2022
Making cocoa beans traceable entails following their journey from where they are produced right up until the moment, they are processed into finished products in our chocolate factory.
This is a complex process, as cocoa beans go through several stages across different operators. That said, methods and technologies are constantly evolving. At Valrhona, we have chosen to rely on tracking and managing cocoa beans’ physical movements. This makes it possible to collect data on provenance, transport, storage and different stages in the transformation process.
Our aim is to provide maximum transparency on the origin and traceability of 100% of our supplies so that we can guarantee our customers, partners and consumers chocolate that combines taste and quality while respecting people and the environment.
Valrhona's commitments and actions
1. Traceability from the producer onwards
At Valrhona, we work directly with producers and cooperatives, producer associations and private plantations. Because our supply chains are short, we have been committed to guaranteeing 100% of our cocoa bean purchases’ traceability since 2018. This attention to detail enables us to know the origin of every cocoa bean, its producer and the conditions under which it was grown.
We have a list of producers who have or can take part in putting together each batch of cocoa beans we buy. This level of traceability is an integral part of the long-term partnership strategy we are developing with our partner suppliers.
2. Plot-based traceability through polygon mapping
Valrhona is committed to extending its plot-based traceability so that we can gain even more visibility over production areas.
We instill traceability at plot level using GPS geolocation and polygon mapping for each grower's land.
Polygon mapping is a topographic survey based on a succession of GPS points which enables us to map a property’s boundary.
These maps are produced by our partner suppliers or an expert local service provider.
By the end of 2022, 60% of our bean harvest had been geolocated and mapped - that is 6,951 producers with over 11,441 hectares of mapped plots.
3. Ensuring physical and financial traceability using digital systems
At Valrhona, we are aware that we need to go even further in terms of the traceability tools we use, so we have launched a plan to make cocoa physically and financially traceable.
As of 2022, we have been developing an "upstream digitalization" project to make multi-functional digital resources. This type of tool should be able to trace cocoa both physically and financially from the producer all the way to the Valrhona chocolate factory in France.
Key performance indicators for 2030
100% of beans
traced at plot level over the long term, current, and new partners included
100% of our bean purchases
are digitized and physically and financially traceable
Portrait of a cocoa Sourcer
Through the testimony of Cédric Robin, cocoa sourcer, discover Valrhona's traceability approach.
At Valrhona, we are aware that minimum prices are not enough to guarantee a decent standard of living, and we are acting accordingly.
In Ivory Coast, over the last five years Valrhona has bought its cocoa at a price averaging 34% more than the minimum guaranteed by the state. Valrhona also gives producers a premium based on quality. In Ghana, in 2022, the premium per bag was increased by 40% to help producers cope with local inflation.
In West Africa, the NGO International Cocoa Initiative estimates that 1.56 million children are forced to work alongside their families. At Valrhona, we are aware of the need to do better and make every effort to combat child labor.
Valrhona has been committed to programs that facilitate and improve access to education since 2014.14 schools have been built and renovated in Ivory Coast, Ghana, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela supporting a total of 65 cohorts and 2,555 students.
Valrhona relies on its long-term relationships with partners and producers as a means of supporting them in the fight against deforestation and global warming. We are committed to having no plots on protected land. By overlaying all our partner growers' plots onto each country’s official map, we can check that none are in a protected area.
At the same time, we are committed to reducing its carbon use across all emission scopes: we have a target of cutting our carbon emissions by 90% (compared with 2018) by 2050. So we have launched a program with the NGO Nitidæ to calculate our cocoa beans’ carbon footprint from the growing area itself. Since 2023, these field studies carried out and certified by the NGO have made it possible to survey, qualify and quantify the risk of deforestation over a 20-year period.
At Valrhona, we know that agroecology is a priority if we are to sustain cocoa-growing over the long term, so we have a responsibility to help our producers to adopt this practice.
Since 2015, we have been a founding member of the Cacao Forest project, a pioneering multi-sector initiative that aims to build a sustainable cocoa industry through agroforestry.
Between 2015 and 2022, several agroforestry models were tested in the Dominican Republic, and the most successful ones were identified and ready to be rolled out across the country. Since 2023, the Cacao Forest program has been developing a proposal for Ivory Coast.