The Touton group is currently working on finalizing its first carbon footprint assessment. Gaining a clear picture of the nature and sources of GHG emissions generated by the trade of tropical agricultural commodities is the mandatory first step towards building an evidence-based, impactful, and conscious plan to fight climate change.
Even though the group has been running climate positive sustainability programs for many years, the decision to evaluate CO2 emissions, across the whole life cycle – scope 1, 2, and 3 – of all its products, indicates a distinct move to better manage, control, and eventually reduce its emissions, from the seedlings to the doorsteps of roasters and processors. Touton’s management has mandated Utopies, a leading French consultancy that supports companies’ transformation, to run this first assessment and help define the group’s forthcoming climate-positive action plan in 2022. In the following interview, Antoine Joint, Strategy Director Climate & Biodiversity at Utopies, and Joseph Larrose, Head of Sustainability at Touton, give a sneak peek into the early top findings of the group’s carbon audit and explain what the next steps will be.
Why did Touton decide to embark into an exhaustive carbon assessment now?
Joseph LARROSE (Head of Sustainability, Touton Group): Addressing climate change and deforestation-related issues is something that we have been doing for a long time at Touton, through our sustainability strategy, especially in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. From implementing landscape approaches, Climate Smart Cocoa, and agroforestry programs, to running extensive Deforestation Risk Assessments or joining the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, we have worked to build more resilient cocoa, coffee, and ingredients supply chains. However, until now, we had never formalized our impact – either positive or negative - through the prism of actual carbon emissions.
The latest market, regulatory and societal developments provided a clear signal that quantifying the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the full spectrum of our activities had become a requirement. The final objective is to define a more targeted and ambitious strategy to reduce our company’s contribution to global warming.
How do Touton’s carbon emissions structure and analysis compare with the rest of the sector?
Antoine JOINT (Strategy Director Climate & Biodiversity at Utopies): The volumes and structure of Touton’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emerge as coherent compared with other agri-food companies, especially cocoa, coffee, and ingredients traders. This means that Utopies’ findings are valid but also that Touton is performing in line with its peers in the sector.
It is important to note that Touton chose to analyze both its direct emissions (scope 1 – company’s own infrastructures) and indirect emissions (scope 2 & 3, including factory production, transport, or land use). This is significant as it determines the level of understanding, and eventually, of responsibility and ambition, an actor is prepared to take.
In the agri-food sector, like in textile, activities happening upstream - including the local production and transport of agricultural goods across long routes - usually account for a significant part of companies’ total greenhouse gas emissions. Those are also usually the hardest ones to tackle as they don’t directly depend on the organization itself.
What are the key findings emerging from the assessment?
Antoine JOINT: Considering the massive volumes of cocoa and coffee purchased by Touton from millions of smallholder farmers, it comes as no surprise that most of the company’s emissions come from its scope 3. In this case, GHG emissions are mostly generated by the upstream agricultural process related to the land-use change, meaning the conversion of a piece of land used by humans, from one purpose to another (e.g., from tropical forests to plantations).
Conversely, we witness the very low impact of transport emissions for cocoa and coffee (less than 5%). Transport for those commodities is mostly maritime, which on average emits 250 times less CO2 per ton than aircraft. The same is not true for Touton’s ingredient trade, like Vanilla. Dominant air transport and inhouse conditioning in Bordeaux (France) translate into higher direct emissions, though relatively low volumes at the group level.
In terms of geography, emissions mostly originate from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which is in line with the high volumes of cocoa sourced in those countries.
Which are the next steps?
Joseph LARROSE: We are moving soon into the most challenging but also exciting part of the process. Accompanied by Utopies, we will mobilize Toutons’ management and employees to build our action plan to reduce emissions across all 3 scopes and formalize our engagement with a clear carbon reduction trajectory. On the implementation part, we are keeping all teams, across departments and countries, engaged by using a digital application to continuously monitor our performance. Timing-wise, we are aiming to finalize our assessment and roadmap by mid-2022.
Considering the prominence of scope 3 emissions, we aim to improve our own data and mapping monitoring systems to further prevent deforestation. We will also look at integrating the data coming from our reforestation, agroforestry, and climate-friendly efforts into the assessment to add further granularity and accuracy, lessening our reliance on data proxies. These are services that we are hoping to eventually develop and offer to our clients. This way, manufacturers can gain a better understanding of their own scope 3 impacts, and work with us on more effective carbon Insetting mitigation activities.
What will be the main factors for success?
Antoine JOINT: A major determinant for success will be the comprehensive engagement from Touton’s top leadership to operational teams, around the world. All aspects of the business will need to work collaboratively to turn this exercise into a meaningful, positive company and supply chain transformation.
The collaboration will also be paramount across the whole supply chain. From farmers to processors, governments, financiers, innovators, or transporters, all stakeholders need to chip in. This is especially true when it comes to fixing the major carbon challenge of all for Touton - and for the cocoa sector in general - fighting deforestation in a highly fragmented cocoa value chain.
What do you hope to get out of Touton’s carbon assessment and forthcoming strategy?
Joseph LARROSE: First of all, I hope for a grounded and credible strategy that addresses all aspects of our footprint: from the easy to the challenging ones, from the short to the long-term efforts. For example, even though emissions generated by our scopes 1 and 2 are comparatively low in volumes, quick win solutions - such as office insulations or factory efficiency measures - will have to be part of our top priorities if we want to build a coherent and dependable mitigation project.
Secondly, as an integrated economic actor, it is Touton’s responsibility to play its part in the fight against climate change. By doing so, we are not only contributing to the collective global effort but also supporting the millions of farmers and partners that are already facing the consequences of climate change in their harvest and in their lives. This is about nurturing the sustainable trust relationship we built with smallholders and clients, transforming our supply chains to make them more resilient.
Resilience also emerges from those producing countries where local entrepreneurs are offering innovative technologies, services and building new ecosystems out of the climate fight. This is about believing and investing in the ecosystems of tomorrow, that will protect and project our supply chains and our business towards climate-responsible ways.