Jennifer Golden is Director of Monitoring & Evaluation at the World Cocoa Foundation

SeaWeb: What do you think is the future of traceability and transparency?

Jennifer Golden: Before talking about traceability and transparency we need to differentiate the two. Traceability refers to tracing the product throughout the value supply chain; whereas transparency can relate to the sharing of all types of data and information – with respect to financial flows, sustainability practices, impact, and so on.  There is a trend toward more of both which is driven by increased demand from companies throughout the value chain, consumers, civil society organizations, governments and other stakeholders. In terms of traceability one issue will continue to be the value-add of traceability as compared to the cost associated with tracing back from the chocolate bar up the value chain throughout the different touchpoints to the smallholder farmer. There are some innovations especially in technology that have potential to close this gap.  

SeaWeb: How does your company, or your client companies, think about traceability? Do they think about it mainly in terms of supply chain management, or as a way to communicate to the marketplace?   

Jennifer Golden: Cocoa and chocolate companies think about transparency with respect to both supply chain management in order to be able to follow the consignments of product through from the cocoa on the farm to the end user and also to be able to communicate to business and/or consumer customers. The importance of traceability increases with risk associated in the supply chain (could be risks associated with the quality of a product, or practices associated with the development of the product, etc.)

SW: How should companies think about traceability and transparency?   

Jennifer Golden: As a first step, companies should think about what the purpose of traceability and/or transparency is for their organization.  Neither is an ‘end’ in and of itself but rather a ‘means’ toward something else.  Traceability may be used to ensure that the supply chain is in compliance with certain declared practices.  Having this traceability may then enable transparency to be able to openly report outside the organization on the practices.  And this transparency then will enable accountability by the company that it is acting in a manner aligned with what it communicates in terms e.g., of a social impact commitment.  Once determining the specific objectives, it will also enable a company to then map out the supply chain and determine where the greatest risk areas are to then determine in which areas traceability is most crucial.  Without doing some of this initial framing and prioritizing, companies may end up spending a lot of extra money and time to build in traceability in areas that are not crucial.

SW: What are some examples of companies getting market value from traceability?

Jennifer Golden: In the cocoa/chocolate value chain there is an increased move towards traceability/transparency.  One indication relates to the use of certification schemes by cocoa and chocolate companies.  In addition, companies have their own sustainable sourcing programs which emphasize traceability and in turn transparency of company practices and practices by those throughout the value chain.  For example, Mondelez tracks farmer volume and premium in its Cocoa Life Program.  Further, it is very transparent in sharing its progress, results and learnings.  Lindt & Sprungli emphasizes knowing where the beans come from in its sustainability program, and TCHO’s business model revolves around partnering directly with the cocoa producers.  These examples show the increasing focus on tracing the ‘bean to bar’.  These and many more emphasize the move towards more transparency by companies of their practices and results.  When a differentiator, these actions help companies get market value.

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