Hiring an Executive Director for the International Cocoa Initiative

11 January 2022 by Acre
blog author

​Did you know that almost half of the children living in cocoa-growing areas in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are estimated to be involved in child labour?

Despite progress being made within the cocoa sector, the prevalence of this issue continues to be of great concern. One group on a mission to tackle this is the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI); a dedicated Foundation working together with its partners to improve the lives of children and adults at risk of child or forced labour within cocoa-growing communities.

Early last year, we were honoured when the ICI asked us to support with their search for a new Executive Director to provide visionary leadership so that the Foundation can achieve its objectives with emphasis on catalysing a responsible cocoa supply chain, a supportive and enabling environment, as well as a scaled-up, coordinated and coherent multi-stakeholder effort through innovation and learning, technical advocacy and capacity building.

So, who is the ICI?

A Swiss non-profit foundation that wants a better future for children in cocoa-growing communities. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative that unites the forces of the cocoa and chocolate industry, civil society, farming communities, governments, international organisations and donors to promote human rights, and to tackle child labour in the cocoa supply chain.

Why is the ICI uniquely positioned to drive change in the cocoa sector?

  • Its sphere of influence, pool of expertise and network of partners; and

  • It has been working in cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for 14 years, during which it has helped advance quantified progress in the fight against child labour in cocoa.

What impact has the ICI had so far?

  • Its direct actions have improved child protection for more than 422,000 children between 2015 and 2020;

  • Its approaches have led to a 20-30% reduction in child labour in ICI-assisted communities; and

  • It has spearheaded a 50% reduction in hazardous child labour amongst at-risk children identified by ICI’s monitoring systems.

We’re sure this explains a bit about the importance of this search, and the ICI’s need to find the best person for the position – someone who can bring the ICI’s mission and vision to life, someone who embodies the ICI’s core values, and someone who has the leadership skills required to drive meaningful change and deliver measurable impact.

How does Acre support a foundation like the ICI to fill such a prominent position?

At Acre, we recognise that our obligations stem far beyond merely placing people in jobs. We work with the most aspirational clients, like ICI, with the potential to make real change; from those who are just starting out to those who are well on the journey to crafting a legacy.

We start by telling their story.

Regardless of how well-known a client’s brand may or may not be, the sustainability space is evolving at an exponential pace, and the candidate market is more competitive than ever before. With an assignment as important as this one, we needed to ensure that candidates were aware of just how impactful the ICI’s sustainability journey has been so far, and how far it can go.

We offered the ICI a platform to publicise their important work, and our in-house design team created a bespoke information package for prospective candidates. This highly visual document not only allowed us to bring the ICI’s vision to life, but it helped to demonstrate the time and effort that the ICI was putting into finding the right person – particularly during a year where the hesitancy to leave an existing role or re-locate was heightened.

Click here to browse the full document.

We assess each candidate's potential to lead.

The ICI’s new Executive Director would be leading a team of 160 people – all with one common goal – so finding a leader who could inspire and maintain broad support to every one of them was of the utmost importance.

Through our unique behavioural assessment technology, developed and delivered in-house, we understand the types of people, skills and behaviours required to create impact. This added real value to the search for two main reasons:

  1. Candidates benefitted from valuable insight into their strengths and development areas via a 1-1 feedback session with our senior development coach, Josh Jeffries.

  2. The ICI benefitted from objective insight into each candidate’s potential for success in this role, and were also able to open an honest, transparent conversation around development right from the get-go.

We support the successful candidate from their initial CV to their first day.

We couldn’t be more excited by the ICI’s decision to appoint Matthias Lange as its new Executive Director, and by the impact that he will have in this position. Our European recruitment team supported Matthias at every stage of the interview process and remains humbled by the outcome.

In Matthias’ words:

I am honoured, and humbled, by the task at hand and the responsibilities ahead. Thanks to Nick’s [previous] leadership, our organisation has a strong foundation and a clear vision for the future, and I am grateful to know that I can count on the commitment of talented staff and of dedicated members and partners, to continue to improve the lives of children and their families in cocoa-growing communities. I look forward to continuing the great work Nick has started, building on these strong foundations, and working towards our collective vision of thriving cocoa-growing communities within a dignified, sustainable and responsibly managed cocoa-supply chain.

As for his recruitment experience with Harco Leertouwer, Ricardo Pengel and Aysen Naylor, Matthias had this to say:

Thank you, Harco. It was my pleasure to participate in this process, especially considering the outcome. Thanks again for the support, guidance, advice and professionalism through the steps of what was also for me, an excellent learning process.”

If you’d like to learn more about how a partnership like this could transform your team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at amsterdam@acre.com or by calling +31 20 808 19 00.