Mars Wrigley creates $1 billion fund for improving cocoa sustainability

Global chocolate business Mars Wrigley Confectionery has devised a $1 billion plan over the next decade for improving sustainability within its cocoa supply chain, offering greater support to communities in key African cocoa growing countries.

Called Cocoa for Generations, the company explained that the emphasis of its plan places the interest of the smallholder farmer at its centre, aiming to safeguard children and forests. The scheme is said to incremental to the company’s Sustainable in a Generation Plan investment the business announced last year.

Central to its latest plan is a target of 100% of its cocoa sourced globally obtained through a responsible sourcing programme that is fully traceable by 2025. This will include proposals to address deforestation, child labour and higher incomes for farmers. The scheme delivers on the address covered by Confectionery Production of Mars board member Frank Mars at the World Cocoa Conference in Berlin earlier this year. He urged that it was imperative that major businesses within the sector join forces to tackle sustainable sourcing of cocoa and deliver a fairer deal for African communities, which are responsible for around 70% of the world’s cocoa supplies, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana remaining the two biggest suppliers.

“For nearly 40 years we’ve been working to achieve sustainable cocoa production,” said John Ament, global vice president – Cocoa, Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “While we’ve made progress, including reaching nearly 180,000 farmers with sustainability certification, we are impatient with our pace of progress, and of the cocoa sector overall. We don’t have all the answers, but our first step is to put the farmer at the centre of our ambitions and actions. We plan to inspire others and work together to ensure Cocoa for Generations.”

As the company acknowledged, despite progress, farmers have failed to experienced notable improvements in their incomes or living conditions at an adequate pace. Significantly, it also noted that children continue to labour in hazardous conditions, and deforestation continues with farming occurring in protected forest areas.

Consequently, Mars said it believes a step change is needed where business, civil society and government must think and act differently, and take a new approach that creates a pathway for cocoa farmers, their families, and communities to thrive.

Under its Responsible Cocoa programme, farms will provide satellite based GPS locations for supply data to ensure that  crops are not from  protected forest areas. In addition, the company said it intends to work with suppliers and certifiers to enhance the child labour monitoring and remediation programs (CLMRS) deployed in its Responsible Cocoa supply chain, and continue to help improve education in cocoa-growing communities, with a focus on access to and quality of schools.

In addition, Mars added that it will work with partners to ensure that the model for premiums the company pays for responsibly-produced cocoa is overhauled to ensure that farmers receive a higher share of the premium. Mars will explore and encourage further sector-wide changes and partnerships that can bring about increased income for farmers.

The business added that its new approach to cocoa goes beyond the current level of certification standards and practices, and believed it represented a step change from the initial commitment the company made in 2009.

While this new approach is implemented, Mars confirmed it will maintain its current certified cocoa levels with the Rainforest Alliance and with Fairtrade and work with both organisations as they continue to strengthen implementation to raise the bar across the cocoa sector. The company said it recognised both certification organisations’ efforts to organise individual farmers into groups and cooperatives, providing training and implementing management systems in certified farmer groups, and is committed to collaborate with them to improve audit controls, child labor monitoring, traceability and premiums paid to farmers. As further measurable efforts are made, Mars will continue transitioning its cocoa volumes to these new and stronger approaches.

Fairtrade said: “We applaud Mars for recognising the role of the smallholder farmer at the heart of any ambitious plan in cocoa sustainability. Without progress on incomes for these farmers, sector-wide transformation is not possible. We need more companies showing leadership on issues in this way, which is why we are excited at the prospect of continuing to work with Mars to grow our impact in a way that delivers more for the company, whilst putting farmers first.”

Rainforest Alliance added: “We can all agree there needs to be a change on the ground for farmers, their families and forests,” said Britta Wyss Bisang, chief of sustainable supply chains for the Rainforest Alliance. “We commend Mars for deepening their commitment to cocoa producers, and for recognizing that step-change in action on the ground is needed. We look forward to furthering our relationship with Mars as this is well aligned with our new strategy, which puts more focus on collaboration between producers, NGO’s, companies and governments.”

Sustainable Cocoa Tomorrow

Through its second pillar, Mars hopes to demonstrate that a step-change in farmer income and livelihoods is possible. In partnership with an initial global group of 75,000 cocoa farming families and cocoa suppliers, the company plans to test ways to increase productivity, income, resilience, and overall sustainability through crop and income diversification, gender programs, village and savings and loan models and farm development plans.

In parallel, the business will work with the industry, governments and other civil-society partners to seek shared solutions and mutually-beneficial results for cocoa farming families. Mars will continue to collaborate pre-competitively with its peers and with suppliers to accelerate shared learning via industry forums including the World Cocoa Foundation and their CocoaAction platform and the International Cocoa Initiative.

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