A Cargill Cocoa Promise project addressing access to affordable funding for cocoa farmer cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire, the first of its kind in the cocoa sector, has been named winner of the FiE 2015 Best Sustainability Innovation Award in Paris, France yesterday.

Provided in partnership with the Ivorian bank SIB and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the initiative provides affordable loans for trucks for cocoa farmer cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. The funding is available to graduates of the Cargill Coop Academy, a dedicated educational program for managers of cocoa farmer cooperatives. The main benefit is that cocoa farmers can transport their cocoa beans to market more easily and reliably. Forty-three cooperatives are participating in the initiative and 78 new trucks have been leased in the first year alone.

Cooperatives play an important role in empowering farmers and strengthening communities, as well as fulfilling important social roles such as operating school transport or an ambulance service. In Côte d’Ivoire, Cargill is working with over 80,000 farmers in 100 partner cooperatives.

The FiE Awards judging panel explained “environmental strategies alone are no longer exceptional but the norm. Actions that extend beyond the environmental and incorporate social, cultural and economic initiatives embody the true scope of sustainability.”

On receiving the award, Niklas Andersson, marketing and communications director, Europe Middle East and Africa, for Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business said: “The creation of such an initiative by Cargill represents the real sense of trust and partnership we have with cocoa farmer cooperatives, and as the first such initiative of its kind is a source of real pride for us. We believe our sustainability programs, delivered as part of the Cargill Cocoa Promise, are on a scale and depth unequalled by others in the cocoa industry. Over 10 years’ experience on the ground, a genuine focus on impact and outcomes, transparency in how these are measured, and our emphasis on long-term partnerships are real differentiators that set what we do apart from others in the sector.”