The flavour journey to sustainable chocolate
A champion of ethical and sustainable food businesses, Erik Bruun Bindslev looks at one US chocolate company’s 150-year journey to sustainability and offers advice as to how others can head in the same direction, too.
In the corporate world, sustainability can be a misused term, too often mistaken for ‘box ticking’ or a ‘nice to have’ chapter in the annual report. Yet customers are more concerned with the sustainability credentials of the businesses they support than ever, meaning it should also be a key concern for companies too. In 2016, the UK had a £81.3bn market for ethical products and services and according to not-for-profit consultancy Ethical Consumer, the sector grew by more than £40bn since 2008, with households spending an average of £1,263 on ethical goods in 2016.
In light of this obvious cultural shift in priorities, companies should view the subject of sustainability as simply acting responsibly as a business, aligned to the founders’ and shareholders’ personal values and aims. The Guittard family – founders of the 150-year old ‘Guittard Chocolate Company’ – makes no claim to be a perfect example of how to achieve sustainability in the cacao industry, but throughout the five generations of Guittard, they have led with purpose and personal ethics – which they feel is absolutely necessary for their survival and long-term relevance in the market place.
As a strategy and operational advisor, I feel well placed to spot a company with a rich and long heritage of ‘doing things right’. It’s a known fact that the older the company, the harder it is to change its modus operandi and, while this also the case for many of Guittard’s European competitors, the company’s combination of family ownership and ‘can do’ attitude has enabled it to adapt and stay relevant. One way in which they share their expertise is in leading by example in their operations: this includes maximising supply and manufacturing efficiencies, while continually working to reduce their environmental impact by reducing energy, water, and waste wherever possible.
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