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Amitava Chattopadhyay


Amitava Chattopadhyay
Emerging Market Multinationals - Amitava Chattopadhyay


Burkina Faso

Kolo Nafaso from a researcher’s perspective – highlights from Amitava Chattopadhyay

It’s been a long-standing interest of mine to understand how businesses can be a force for good. That desire stemmed from a conversation with a former classmate, a pioneer in social innovation, who cogently argued that there simply wasn’t enough money in the form of charitable giving to alleviate poverty on a global scale. Thus, the best way forward was for business to invest behind social innovation, also referred to as sustainability.
Kolo Nafaso – a new way of doing business in shea.

I was invited to give a talk at the executive committee meeting of AAK held in Singapore, in early 2018. In my conversations with senior sourcing representatives of AAK, I learned about the Kolo Nafaso programme and wanted to understand more deeply what AAK was doing in terms of creating a sustainable supply chain, working directly with the women from small-holder families in rural West Africa, who collected the shea kernels, the first link in the shea supply chain. My goal for learning more was threefold. First, there was my personal curiosity, the Kolo Nafaso programme seemed to be an interesting and meaningful initiative, that could impact poverty alleviation at scale. Second, I teach a class on strategies for social impact and profit, and this seemed to be an interesting example of just that, and I wanted to write a case study that I could use in my course. The third was that innovations like Kolo Nafaso pose challenges, since they require the balancing of two motivations: profit and social impact. They also require managing the differences in perspective across functions, within the organization. This hasn’t been studied in the management literature, and I saw an opportunity to contribute to the discussion of how to manage the balance by learning from the experience of AAK.

The AAK Kolo Nafaso programme – Securing an alternative shea supply chain

AAK, a Swedish company providing vegetable oils and fats for various industries for more than 140 years, has been a dominant player processing shea since the 1950s. In 2009 in Burkina Faso, AAK started a project to work directly with West African women with small farm holdings, to improve their productivity as well as pay them fair prices. This project evolved into an alternative supply chain. The shea nuts through this programme – called Kolo Nafaso – were traceable to the women’s group level in West Africa. Kept segregated, the shea was not blended with AAK’s conventional shea supply, such that clients could lay claim to having sustainable and traceable sourced shea, when using Kolo Nafaso shea in their products. This was becoming increasingly important, as focus on sustainability grew among end-consumers, employees, as well as investors. The Kolo Nafaso programme expanded to Ghana, as AAK realized the potential of this alternative supply source, especially in 2018 when there had been a global shortage of shea. The issue was how to significantly grow this alternative sourcing programme, and how to realize its value


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