Puratos borrows 1 billion euros to fund sustainable chocolate

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The Belgian chocolate producer Puratos raises one billion euros through a bond loan to combat slavery, child labour and deforestation.

 

Child labour

It is a well-known fact that the chocolate industry has a bad reputation. Due to the low price that many cocoa farmers receive for their products, activities such as child labour and illegal deforestation are still widespread within the trade. Yet much has changed in recent years: sustainable chocolate is rapidly gaining ground.

 

Between 2015 and 2020, the market share of Fairtrade chocolate in Belgium rose from 0.7 per cent to 8.5 per cent. "Chocolate is candy. Candy is - mainly - for children", says Koen van Troos of Fairtrade Belgium in the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "Parents increasingly realise that child labour is linked to that chocolate."

 

Premium

Puratos, which sells 1.8 billion euros worth of chocolate and bakery products annually, wants to invest one billion euros over the next twenty years to make its chocolate more social and environmentally friendly. The Belgian company is raising the money through a green bond loan, writes Belgian newspaper De Tijd.

 

In 2014, Puratos launched the Cocoa Trace sustainability programme, under which member farmers receive a premium of 10 cents per kilo of cocoa. This amounts to three to four additional monthly salaries on an annual basis, the Brussels-based group assures. Farmers who want to join the programme must promise not to carry out illegal deforestation.

 

Quality

To justify this higher price to its customers, Puratos is fully committed to quality. "We get the superior quality by paying special attention to the fermentation of the cocoa beans", says Youri Dumont, director of the company's chocolate division. "Just as with wine, you get better results when you apply good fermentation techniques."

 

Today, a tenth of Puratos chocolate comes from the sustainability programme, but the company wants to increase that share to half by 2030. "After that, an even higher percentage should be possible. The whole industry is striving for more sustainable chocolate. The trend will continue. One hundred per cent may be difficult to achieve, but we are aiming for it." That is why Puratos is building a dozen more drying and fermentation centres over the next few years, on top of the eight that are already up and running.