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USAid, private sector launch sustainability charter for coconut industry

Nov 19. 2020
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By The Nation

Backed by the US Agency for International Development (USAid), private sector leaders signed the coconut industry’s first global Sustainable Coconut Charter on Monday. The charter aims to improve farmers’ livelihoods, reduce carbon footprint of coconuts and boost supply in the Asia-Pacific region to meet rising global demand.

The charter, signed by AAK, Barry Callebaut, FrieslandCampina, Harmless Harvest Thailand, Nestlé and Unilever, outlines principles and sustainability goals in coconut supply chains, almost all of which start in Asia. It also aims to harmonise buyers’ requirements for supply chain partners.

Coconut consumption continues to grow globally, increasing its profile as a safe food. But rising demand coconut and coconut-oil-based products, as well as wider use of coconut in cosmetics, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries has forced a rapid growth in the coconut industry. One key challenge is sustainably replanting millions of coconut palms in Asia that are too old to produce fruit. 

“This charter is an important milestone on the way to improving coconut cultivation and farmers’ livelihoods. This is a challenge that must be tackled together to be successful,” said Massimo Selmo, chocolate producer Barry Callebaut’s global head of sourcing. 

“We are proud to have supported this valuable charter,” said Dr Steven G Olive, mission director of USAid’s Regional Development Mission for Asia. 

“The US government prioritises working through the private sector to catalyse market reform and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that warm our climate. Guiding tools, such as this charter, create a landscape approach for sustainability in Asia. USAid stands ready to scale this initiative and looks forward to more signatories joining.” USAid has supported this regional effort through Green Invest Asia, which helps agriculture and forestry businesses in Southeast Asia improve the sustainability and environmental stewardship of their operations by connecting them with like-minded investors.

“As early adopters, a separate public-private partnership between six companies and the German Development Agency [GIZ] has already committed to implementing the charter to improve sustainability in the Philippines’ coconut supply chain,” said Matthias Radek, GIZ’s chief adviser of agricultural projects.

Mathieu Chaumont from Harmless Harvest, a US-based firm that sells organic coconut water, ran a panel explaining how regenerative agriculture improves soil quality and combats global warming, one potential solution to safely boost dwindling coconut supply without increasing its carbon footprint.

Any individual or organisation committed to the charter’s ambitions and principles, and willing to contribute to the on-going development of more sustainable practices in the coconut industry is invited to be a signatory. 

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