Kiran Grewal catches up with new Director of Commercial Partnerships, Kerrina Thorogood, who heads up all of the programmes and partnerships at the Fairtrade Foundation.

As Commercial Partnerships Director, I lead a fantastic, highly skilled and passionate team of people who forge partnerships with organisations – companies, donors, NGOs and coalitions – that share our ambition and commitment for delivering measurable impact at scale for farmers and producers. 

Core to our work is of course the Fairtrade certification. A powerful and critical market-based mechanism that ensures products are sourced against a set of ambitious social and environmental standards, producers are paid a Fairtrade minimum price or the market price, whichever is highest, and then on top farmer cooperative receives an additional premium to be spent on social and environmental good in the community.  

Fairtrade is also increasingly working in strategic partnerships that are seeing us broaden our approach to deliver the solutions farmers desperately need. We work with partners on supply chain solutions and programmes; on joint advocacy to shift the whole sector or government policy; on fundraising for mission support; or on inspiring our joint audiences to be part of a movement that calls for a fairer and more sustainable food system. 

And our programmes are going from strength to strength. Last month Fairtrade was one of a group of stakeholders delivering programmes under the FCDO’s Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility. The programme was awarded an A++ score which meant ‘Substantially Exceeding Expectations’. The highest score in the FCDO system with only 2% of FCDO projects being ranked so highly! This is complete testament to the expertise and knowledge the team has built in programme design and delivery.  

You spent many years at WWF, why was joining Fairtrade important to you? 

I actually received the call about the role while I was at COP26 in Glasgow. I’d just been listening to speeches from farmers from the global south (some hosted by Fairtrade!) and indigenous people who were thankfully much more present than they had been at previous climate talks. Their message was clear. Climate change was not an issue coming down the pipeline but was happening right now. Cocoa producers like Bismark Kpabitey from Ghana gave a powerful speech about reduced harvests due to rising temperatures and unpredictable weather events. And how the average cocoa farmer still earns on average as little as a dollar a day but we expect him or her to pick up the costs of adapting to these changes.  

It really opened my eyes to the fact that farmers will need a fair and just food system more than ever in the next five years; and Fairtrade, an organisation co-governed by producers and working directly in the first mile of the supply chain, was the organisation, model and movement to achieve this and one that I really wanted to be part of.  

Reassuringly business was also showing leadership at COP, with clear commitments to reducing carbon and building more resilience in supply chains. There was a clear mandate for partnerships with Fairtrade to deliver change, and with my background as Head of Partnerships at WWF, I hoped that I could add real value where I felt it would be needed most.  

Furthermore, Fairtrade had just launched its new 2021-2025 Strategy – The Future is Fair – an ambitious global response to a changing world. It felt like there was no better time to be supporting producers in the first mile of the supply chain. And there was no better organisation than Fairtrade.   

How does your role help bring to life the vision of Fairtrade chocolate in the UK? 

Our key focus for Fairtrade chocolate is to deliver partnerships with companies who want to demonstrate leadership on social and environmental sustainability in cocoa supply chains. Central to these partnerships will always be work on living incomes which is complex so key to our work is looking at the different approaches and tools, leveraging links between sourcing and programme arrangements and working in multi-stakeholder coalitions. As well as being expert partners on living income work, we also bring strong expertise on climate and deforestation issues. Last year we also launched the Fairtrade Climate Network, a forum bringing together committed businesses to accelerate action on the climate crisis.  

The exciting new opportunities presented by the wider cocoa policy landscape as well as the Fairtrade standard review later this year will provide plenty of opportunities to showcase Fairtrade as the “gold standard” for both farmer and business partners. And we see Fairtrade certified cocoa as a “passport” for compliance with emerging legislation.  

What partnerships does Fairtrade currently have and how does it help to create value for cocoa farmers, their communities and wider society through combining your organisations? 

We have exciting cocoa partnerships with Mars, Ben & Jerry’s, Tony’s (a nice disruptor brand to showcase in our cocoa portfolio) as well as with Mondelez International. Here’s an overview of the main ones:  

Mars and Fairtrade have worked together for over 10 years, switching products to Fairtrade and to deliver against Mars’ sustainability strategy Cocoa for Generations. Maltesers was the first brand within the Mars family to switch to Fairtrade in 2011, later followed by Mars bar; collaborations which have led to millions of dollars of Fairtrade Premium reaching cocoa farmers. Beyond sourcing Fairtrade cocoa, last month saw us launch a new innovative 3-way partnership with Ecookim (a collection of cocoa cooperatives from Côte d’Ivoire) that will see us working together to enable all farmers that Mars sources from on Fairtrade terms to improve their livelihoods. Entitled the Livelihoods Ecosystem Advancement Programme (LEAP), this 5-year initiative is targeted to reach 5,000 farmers to drive living incomes. Co- funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland (MFA) – we will focus on three priority areas:  
Strengthening co-operatives so they can support farmers with a range of services to help them to grow more cocoa and earn higher incomes;  
Diversifying farmer incomes so both women and men farmers can make money from sources other than cocoa;  
Nurturing expanding access to financial services like loans and mobile banking, so farmers can invest in their farms and their futures.  

LEAP starts from the position that ‘no two farmers are the same’ and seeks to deliver tailored approaches which help cocoa farmers work towards a living income, regardless of their starting position. This program was designed in consultation with the farmers who provide cocoa to Ecookim themselves, and they will continue to be consulted to help guide the programme’s implementation, governance and learnings. Our approach will seek to support changes within the ‘market-ecosystem’ within which farmers operate; meaning we’ll be supporting investments which open up long-term services and benefits in line with farmer needs, in place of one-off trainings. We’ll be sharing the lessons we learn on more widely as we go, raising visibility of both the challenges confronted and evidence of success that can be scaled to other farming households over time. 

Our Partnership with Ben & Jerry’s on cocoa focuses on the Living Income Accelerator and working towards closing the income gap and ensuring that their ingredient producers can lead full, dignified lives. The living income premium pays farmers an additional amount on top of the Fairtrade Premium — money that they can use to invest in their farming operations and communities based on their particular local needs. Plus, it allows them to build relationships with farming co-ops and get to know the farmers and the specific challenges they face. Ben & Jerry’s use what they call a linked prosperity business model, which means that as they prosper from making delicious ice cream flavours, they work hard to ensure that all the people who have a hand in making their flavours — from the ingredient farmers to the manufacturing employees and beyond — also prosper. The Living Income Accelerator is one part of their journey toward that goal. Working to ensure that farmers aren’t trapped in a cycle of extreme poverty is important to them as a values-led company and supports their linked prosperity mission. They also use their global platform to advocate for industry-wide change, because farmers everywhere deserve a reliable income that allows them to thrive. 

In 2016, the Fairtrade-Mondelēz International Cocoa Life partnership evolved to focus on working with seven cocoa farming unions in Ghana which originally supplied Fairtrade cocoa to Cadbury. Under the partnership, Cocoa Life committed to offer cocoa farmers in Ghana guaranteed high-volume purchases, clear terms of trade, and loyalty payments, which together with programme investments, deliver value per farmer at least equivalent to that previously delivered by Fairtrade Premiums. Mondelēz International committed to rolling out Cocoa Life across all Cadbury brands rather than just Dairy Milk, allowing for significant growth in the volumes covered by the partnership. 

Tony’s are an exciting brand. They are really driving awareness of the challenges within the cocoa supply chain. Tony’s pay the Fairtrade Price, Premium and more. We worked with Tony’s to develop the Living Income Reference Price (LIRP). That’s the price a farmer should receive for one kilo of cocoa beans to enable him or her to earn a living income. The price is based on calculations that take into account productivity, country and family size and diversification of income.  

What work have you begun with Guylian that you could tell us about? 

We have recently announced a partnership with premium Belgian chocolate brand Guylian, world famous for its chocolate Seashells as it converts 100% of its cocoa to Fairtrade. The conversion will see almost USD $495,624 in Fairtrade Premium go back to West African cocoa farmers in Guylian’s supply chain which they will democratically decide how to spend against their social and environmental goals. 

The announcement came as Guylian shifts its focus on sustainability as part of a strategy which includes transitioning to more sustainable production. As a result, the chocolate with hazelnut praline sold across four continents and in 120 countries, now has a new recipe, comes in new packaging and carries the distinctive blue and green Fairtrade logo. 

From relaunch, Guylian will offer a selected limited curated range, which will be available all year round in the UK. The focus is primarily on the Seashells and Seahorses, as well as on the individually wrapped Seahorses and a range of 100g premium tablets. In addition, Guylian will also be launching themed packaging around the key annual gifting moments. Finally, the packaging for the duty-free channel will also get a makeover.  

All new packaging has been designed to be fully recyclable. Guylian is also looking into ways of further reducing its use of paper and plastic. Since the start of this year, the production site in Sint-Niklaas is “fully climate neutral”, which means that CO2 emissions have been reduced to the lowest possible level and all other emissions are compensated. Finally, since 2018, palm oil and soya are no longer used in the production process in order to prevent deforestation. 

How does collaborating with supermarkets help to spread the message? 

Working with supermarkets has been a great way to drive significant benefits back to cocoa farmers, especially through major category switches such as Co-op converting all their cocoa to Fairtrade, including in their list of ingredients, Waitrose committing to all Fairtrade chocolate. More recently we’ve seen Lidl and Aldi also make major moves to Fairtrade cocoa.  

Partnerships with supermarkets are a fantastic way for shoppers to know they are making a difference through their everyday shopping choices. As well as on pack, customers hear about Fairtrade at point of sale as well as through wider comms. Partners such as Co-op and Waitrose get very involved in our annual Fairtrade Fortnight campaign and very much help drive awareness. Fairtrade believes that its Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient (FSI) certification model – which carries a separate label to indicate that one ingredient is Fairtrade certified – has given companies much greater flexibility to incorporate Fairtrade cocoa into their product ranges. It’s a very convenient way for brands and retailers to make commitments across all products where cocoa is used, meaning they can offer Fairtrade options across different price points. Asda for example launched a chocolate bar using our FSI model recently.  

What does a day in your job role look like? 

Lots of meetings and conversations! To tackle the complex issues that Fairtrade focuses on – with the urgency that’s needed – I believe we need to come together in bilateral and multi-stakeholder dialogues to discuss the challenges and drive solutions. Fairtrade cannot do it on its own, other organisations can’t do it on their own, which is why working with commercial partners, donors, NGOs and thought leaders and building connections is so critical.  

At present it’s also about speaking with my team as well as other teams and groups around the world. The wealth of knowledge and expertise in my team is huge and particularly being on three months in role, I’m tapping into as much of this as I can.  

I’ve been told that I have endless amounts of drive and energy when I’m passionate about my work which is certainly the case in this new role. But I do make sure I constantly reinforce to colleagues the importance of a good work life balance. As a mother of two young children myself, I know I do my job better when I know my children are thriving and I’m being a good role model to them. I’m lucky to have found an organisation that prioritises and supports me to do this.  

What is the best advice you have ever received and from whom? 

To trust my gut, and it was such a shift in my productivity and what I achieved once I did. To listen and be nice to people. You never know when you might need them. And that pressure makes diamonds! If it makes you feel nervous or you are out of your comfort zone, then you are achieving something! 

What do you see for the future of commercial relationships for Fairtrade? A dream commercial relationship? 

Partnerships with a clear and unique purpose; and interventions that go right across the value chain – from sustainable sourcing, innovation and programmes through to cross-sector and government advocacy; to driving citizen mobilisation and engagement, and amplification through public-private sector match funding.  

One area I’m keen to explore more is how we use our joint platforms in partnerships to engage the public more on these issues and how individuals can play a role and be part of the solution. I feel we are sitting on untold stories of what is happening in the real world and we need to be much more on the front foot with consumers particularly as they look more deeply at what’s behind brands and demand honest products.  

With Fairtrade’s embedded relationships with Cocoa farming communities, knowledge and expertise, plus huge brand recognition with 93% awareness and 83% trusting the Fairtrade mark, we have so much opportunity to deliver significant impact for farmers, workers and producers globally working with our partners. These are exciting times for Fairtrade and I feel very honoured to be part of it.  

Editorial contact:
Editor: Kiran Grewal