Campaigners present Nestlé with petition over ending Fairtrade KitKat deal

Campaigners have protested at the UK headquarters of Nestlé, handing over a petition signed by 300,000, over its move away from Fairtrade cocoa sourcing for its KitKat brand, reports Neill Barston.

The business, which claims that the petition contains inaccuracies, responded that its decision to transfer to Rainforest Alliance accreditation after a decade linked to Fairtrade was part of its wider pre-existing plans regarding overall sustainability policies.

As previously reported by Confectionery Production Nestlé said it had put in place mitigation measures to support affected farmers in key West African cocoa producing nations of Ivory Coast and Ghana, but that it had made the decision after a considerable period of evaluation.

Consequently, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Fairtrade, backed by MPs and Peers and co-chaired by Holly Lynch MP (Labour) and Jason McCartney MP (Conservative) met with Nestlé representatives over its KitKat decision at a meeting in July, in which the company re-affirmed its decision.

As a result, a group of five Fairtrade campaigners led by the charity’s Yorkshire co-ordinator Joanna Pollard, attended Nestlé’s site in York yesterday to hand over a petition in protest at the company’s move, which they believed would affect farming communities financially. They noted the date was particularly significant as the start of cocoa harvesting in Ivory Coast.

According to the charity, the move away from Fairtrade with KitK would result in tens of thousands of vulnerable cocoa farmers will no longer receive around £1.37 million of Fairtrade Premium payments every year, and will have less control over how they spend their money under the new deal they have been offered, which is disputed by Nestlé. In addition, it claimed that sugar farmers will lose over £500,000 of annual Fairtrade Premium payments.

The largest petition, addressed to Ulf Mark Schneider, Nestle’s Global CEO, was started by Joanna Pollard, Coordinator of Fairtrade Yorkshire, when after hearing the devastating news and has been signed by 284,000 people, with a further petition from the Co-Operative party being signed by 20,000 people. 

Joanna Pollard said: “As soon as I heard the news that KitKats would no longer be Fairtrade I knew this would be devastating for thousands of farmers. Under the Fairtrade system they have a seat at the table and make their own decisions about where their money is spent. The farmers I’ve spoken to feel that selling their crop on Fairtrade terms is vital for their communities. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the petition has had from almost 300,000 people all over the world, and reading their reasons for signing it’s clear that they want to take a stand in support of farmers.

She added: “Since launching this petition, I’ve had the chance to speak directly to farmers and have also managed to speak privately with Nestle representatives about how farmers are going to lose out from this decision. They haven’t listened, and that’s why I’m here today, to tell the company that we are going to keep standing with farmers, and call on everyone to choose chocolate with the Fairtrade mark.”

Joanna’s petition has also received widespread support from MPs, including Rachael Maskell MP whose York Central constituency is home to the Nestle factory, Holly Lynch, Chair of the Fairtrade All Party Parliamentary Group and Labour MP for Halifax, and organisations including Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Fair Trade Wales, CAFOD, NUS, BAFTS, Fair Trade Network UK, Tearfund, Commitment for Life, National Campaigner Committee, and Fairtrade Yorkshire.

As the company noted, in  2019, UK shoppers helped generate over £30 million in Premium for Fairtrade producers to boost local economies and improve community services in the Global South, and Fairtrade cocoa sales grew by 23%. 

In response, Nestle issued a statement which it said reinforced the fact it had engaged with farming communities under its new Rainforest Alliance deal.

It read: “This petition, which has been circulating since June, carries a number of inaccuracies that we have tried to correct with the petition starter but to no avail. It means that many of those who signed the petition in good faith did so on the basis of a false premise. We would ask anybody who has signed this petition to look at the mission of the Rainforest Alliance and the work we are doing through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan.

“It all serves to underline that we want to help further improve the lives of cocoa farmers through a number of different initiatives and by increasing our overall investment in sustainable cocoa. From today, all of our cocoa in the UK & Ireland will be certified by the Rainforest Alliance bringing these two KitKat products into line with the rest of Nestlé’s confectionery range. Before we made this decision, and throughout our notice period with Fairtrade, we have listened carefully to farmers.

“We have used their input to create a comprehensive package to support their needs through the transition. We now have a solid and consistent platform to make cocoa more sustainable and, ultimately, that’s what everybody wants to achieve. Meanwhile, we continue to work closely with Fairtrade elsewhere in our portfolio where we believe the partnership helps us reach the right outcomes.”

 

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