On June 18, I had the pleasure to moderate an evening for alumni and students at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, about creating a sustainable food value chain. Here’s what the event was all about.
Creating a sustainable food chain is a continuous process. Whether you are a small local chocolate brand like Tony’s Chocolonely or one of the biggest corporates in the the world like Unilever – you’re never done.
Anniek Mauser (Director of Sustainability, Benelux) shared the story of Unilever’s ambitions and plans for 2020: to help improve the health and well-being of 1 billion people, to halve the environmental footprint and to source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably and enhance the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. To really have an impact and to engage its 172 thousand employees, Unilever has integrated sustainability deeply into its corporate strategy. A visible and passionate CEO like Paul Polman is key to live up to these ambitions. So far the results are promising: brands integrating the sustainable living plan are more profitable and are growing twice as fast as other Unilever brands; they now represent 50% of Unilever’s growth.
Henk Jan Beltman (Chief Chocolate Officer) positioned Tony’s Chocolonely like the mosquito in the tent – a small creature having an impact on much the larger parties in the chocolate industry. Along the tagline of “Crazy about chocolate, serious about people”, he shared the story about how the company got started and how it has grown tremendously in the past years. His passion for chocolate filled the room – and encouraged the majority of the audience to start eating the chocolate bars which he had brought for everyone. And in the meantime, he got everyone to seriously consider the bad and the ugly of what goes on in the food and value chain. Once you know about the modern slavery used in growing cocoa, you can no longer eat most kinds of chocolate. Where crazy and serious meet, he wants to kick-start a movement of consumers and manufacturers to abandon modern slavery.
After the presentations there was ample time for questions and discussion – and of course for sharing a drink together. To keep up to date with the activities of the VCV CIrcles Agrofood and/or Sustainability, please join these circles on the VCV website or LinkedIn. There will be more joint events in the future, as this theme definitely tastes like more!
For more information about the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan you can visit Unilever’s website. Online you can also find more information about the 5 levers of change, Unilever’s model for behaviour change. For more information about Tony’s Chocolonely, check their website – or follow them on Facebook to (later this year) register yourself for the next Tony’s Fair on 19 November.
Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis)