Big Interview: Tom Adams

International Confectionery sits down with Tom Adams, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, 60 Decibels, to learn about their research and efforts supporting cocoa farmers.

Please introduce yourself and what you do?

I’m the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of 60 Decibels. We’re a global impact performance measurement firm that uses rapid yet robust social research methods to help our clients understand and improve the social impact they make. 

My Co-Founder Sasha Dichter and I like to say that we divide our work as follows. As CEO he runs the ‘now’ of the business, and as CSO I run the ‘next’. This means I lead our product and market development. Of late this has increasingly been focused on global agricultural supply chains, from which we are seeing growing interest.

As a speaker for Confectionery Live taking place in January, can you let us know what your session will be on? What are some of the key learning points attendees can take away? 

The session will go deep into the wellbeing of farmers in the cocoa sector. Specifically, we will discuss why and how to genuinely understand if cocoa farmers are thriving or merely surviving in today’s global supply chains, with chocolate as a case study.  

This matters more than ever as social impact in this area has focused on identifying and eliminating human rights violations. This is of course hugely important. And at the same time, at its core, the sustainability of today’s agricultural supply chains increasingly depends on the wellbeing of farmers.  

For instance, in the cocoa sector, most of which comes from two West African countries (Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana), we’re seeing older farmers who need a reason to want to continue producing the cocoa we delight in consuming. As it turns out, understanding farmer wellbeing is also key to reducing human rights issues such as child labour. Like anywhere else in the world, smallholder farmers that thrive send their kids to school, not to work.  

While cocoa industry players have built admirable programs and certifications aiming to uplift the lives of farmers, success is generally measured in metrics of intention, not impact – for instance “farmers trained” or “programs run”. These say little about whether a farmer’s lived experience has materially improved or not. 

What is holding us back is that there are still no widely adopted data-standards that compare and contrast the actual performance of these programs from the farmers’ perspective. This significantly limits the sector’s ability to address social challenges and lift farmer wellbeing. We have a plan to help change that and at Confectionery Live, I’ll be delving into lessons and insights from the development and initial deployment of 60 Decibels’ Farmer Thriving Index...

To read more see our latest issue here.

Media contact

Caitlin Gittins
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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