A sustainable shea program is supporting a surge in demand for ethical chocolate and empowering women at the same time.
Ethical claims are the fastest-growing types of claims in the chocolate confectionery and chocolate spreads sectors, according to Mintel GNPD (Global New Products Database), having increased by about 70 per cent between 2016 and 2020.
There is more than just cocoa and sugar in chocolate and consumers and companies increasingly want all ingredients to be sustainable, and demand for sustainably sourced shea is currently higher than ever.
One of the world’s leading shea suppliers AAK directly sources shea kernels from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Ivory Coast where women predominantly collect the kernels. Within Kolo Nafaso, established in 2009, AAK purchases directly from women’s groups, ranging from seven to 400 in size, eliminating the need for middlemen. As a result, the women are empowered to invest back into their own communities, enabling them to build a better livelihood for themselves and their families.
As in many other places, human and labour rights can be major challenges in West Africa, with gender equality a particular concern. So, there is a need to support these women, many of whom live in rural villages with poverty as an ever-present threat. AAK provides support on a grand scale by having a direct relationship, avoiding the need for intermediaries, and maximizing traceability and transparency – resulting in claims that can be carried through to finished products.
Kolo Nafaso achieves its aims to a significant degree. As a result, the program gives the women’s groups a route to, among others, the high-volume mainstream chocolate confectionery sector.
Luis Parra, Global Business Director Chocolate & Confectionery Fats, said: “To the best of our knowledge, no other commercial program empowers women on the scale of Kolo Nafaso. Our vision is to continuously improve our collaboration and expand its impact in West Africa. We also hope that our model for sustainable sourcing can be inspirational to many other companies.”
Women participating in Kolo Nafaso have access to a pre-financing scheme that ensures a stable income during the leanest period of the year, avoiding a large drop in income when shea is out of season. They can opt to receive interest-free credits during lean periods, helping them to maintain their living standards throughout the year and not just during the shea kernel harvest.
Kolo Nafaso operates alongside a number of other sustainable shea initiatives taken together with industry partners. For example, AAK recently announced a partnership with global confectionery, food and pet care company Mars, several leading NGOs, and an impact investment fund to establish the 10-year Women in Shea (WISH) initiative.