What makes a sustainability leader? Meet employee engagement champions Barry Callebaut

With the 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2020 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winner of our employee engagement initiative of the year, Barry Callebaut.

What makes a sustainability leader? Meet employee engagement champions Barry Callebaut

Global Action Plan's Chris Large (left) and compere Julia Bradbury presenting the Barry Callebaut team with the award

Cocoa giant Barry Callebaut took home this award for its Seeds for Change initiative, which incentivises employees to complete actions that reduce emissions or capture carbon, rewarding them with seedlings to be planted by farmers in the company’s supply chains in Africa.

After Barry Callebaut launched its “Forever Chocolate” strategy, which aims to make sustainable chocolate “the norm”, the firm saw an uptick in employee interest in sustainability across the board– but staff feedback told the sustainability team and the board that individuals were unsure how their actions could drive progress in line with – or even go above and beyond – the company’s strategy. The strategy notably contains ambitions to lift 500,000 cocoa farmers out of poverty, ensure carbon negativity across the supply chain and bring about net forest gain.

To that end, “Seeds for Change” was launched. In order to deliver the programme, Barry Callebaut trained more than 160 staff as ambassadors. Applications for ambassadorship were highlighted at all company locations, ensuring that the scheme reached across the business and that all staff knew they had a local point-of-contact. Uptake was high from the outset, with ambassadors receiving event management and sustainability training at the beginning of their term. Each ambassador requires three events annually and receives points based on the number of participants at the events, and the amount of time they spend there. Points are then traded for seedlings, donated to cocoa origin regions where farmers are engaging with Barry Callebaut’s sustainability programme.

As of February 2020, more than 270 events had been carried out, collectively attracting 16,000 participants. As a result, more than 35,000 points have been collected and converted into seedlings. Barry Callebaut had initially aimed for 100,000 points to be collected and traded for seedlings within a five-year period but, although it is off-track to meeting this ambition, Seeds for Change remains its largest sustainability engagement initiative for employees.

Barry Callebaut attributes the success of the scheme, in part, to the way it has turned participation competitive or game. Annual award ceremonies are held to celebrate the site which amassed the most points. These ceremonies motivate the winner and show other teams what is possible. There are also smaller prizes for regional winners and “spirit awards” for individual ambassadors who have gone above and beyond their requirements.

To keep motivation and participation high throughout the year, Barry Callebaut set up a Google+ Community whereby information could be shared internally on a global scale. Messaging around Seeds for Change was also disseminated through all other internal communications channels – including intranet, emails, newsletters, social media and the company magazine – and branded freebies such as bags, bracelets, planting pots and seeds were distributed via ambassadors.

As a result, the company says the “feeling of powerlessness seems to have evaporated”. On a qualitative basis, Barry Callebaut has recorded multiple occasions on which staff have contacted their Seeds for Change ambassadors with suggestions for improving the environmental impact of their site. But quantitative benefits have also been tracked in terms of rising pod point generation.

What edie’s judges said: “Seeds for Change is ambitious, global in reach, and has successfully involved thousands of employees. It goes beyond ‘doing less bad’ to actively ‘doing good’, bringing all staff along on the journey.”

Are you our next winner?

Now entering their 14th year for 2021, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are a unique opportunity to shout about the achievements you and your company have made during this challenging year. 

Entries have now closed for the award scheme. In a digital event on Wednesday 3 February 2021, entrants will get the chance to celebrate virtually with leaders from across the sustainability, CSR and energy space. Some exciting new categories have been added for 2021 to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business. 


edie Staff

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