Mars Wrigley delivers latest human rights report on its cocoa supply chain actions
Mars Wrigley has released a major industry report detailing its efforts and progress on helping deliver impact on human rights in the cocoa supply chain, writes Neill Barston.
The company’s latest study is part of its wider $1 billion broader investment programme into raising the firm’s overall sustainability standards and performance across the group, addressing key issues of child labour, deforestation and improving farmer income.
Its latest report aims to address the root causes of child and forced labour in supply chains, and has highlighted its ongoing efforts in how to bring about further change on the issue.
Significantly, Mars has also itself a target of 100% of its supplies under its Responsible Cocoa programme by 2025, and its latest report identified core actions being taken in a bid to enhance conditions for the core producing nations including Ghana and Ivory Coast, which account for nearly two thirds of the market.
Among its key achievements under the company’s Protecting Children Action Plan, it has now expanded coverage of child labor monitoring and remediation systems to nearly 70% of volumes sourced from the two West African nations, across 58,000 households (from a figure of 51% two years ago).
Consequently, Mars Wrigley Global President, Andrew Clarke, has issued a plea for more public-private collaboration and appropriate due diligence legislation to combat the reality of the situation for many farmers operating in the industry. He believed its latest respecting human rights in the cocoa supply chain report (view in full here) would encourage dialogue and drive collective efforts on the issue.
“Publishing our experience – sharing what we believe works and what doesn’t – is essential to confront the realities of the cocoa supply chain. While we take pride in our individual efforts, sustainable cocoa farming cannot exist when farmers’ rights are not respected and when they are not paid fairly for their labor across the entirety of the sector.
“To achieve meaningful impact that enables cocoa farmers to thrive, public-private partnerships coupled with appropriate due diligence legislation where needed will be essential. Together these enablers can help improve farmer income and advance respect for human rights in cocoa growing communities,” said Mr Clarke.
As Confectionery Production has previously covered, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted on cocoa supply chains within West Africa, impacting on prices being paid for supplies. This comes just as the industry introduces its Living Differential scheme, designed to assist farmers through paying an additional premium of $400 a tonne of cocoa – which is now under threat amid pressure on the market from wider economic turbulence around the world. Many farmers are still earning below UN defined levels of wages, leading to ongoing concerns for the future viability of the industry, as it faces renewed challenges.
Notably, the core issues of child labour remains a significant factor for the region – with a NORC at the University of Chicago report last year identifying that 1.56 million minors are still exposed to hazardous forms of labour, as industry seeks to scale up its operations in assisting farming communities raise their standards of living.
As Mars stated, its Cocoa for Generations strategy, specifically the Responsible Cocoa pillar, has honed in on these major issues, and added that its ambition remains to help create a more inclusive, modern and sustainable cocoa supply chain requires shared accountability across suppliers, partners and governments.
Its human rights report outlines the innovative approaches and joint action from industry, governments and civil society organisations needed to address inequality, poverty and human rights risk in cocoa farming communities.
The company noted that 2021 has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and Mars reaffirmed its belief that child labor and forced labour have no place in the cocoa supply chain.
In response, last year it launched its Protecting Children Action Plan to tackle root causes of this challenge head-on. Advances, learnings and insights against the four-point approach to identifying, preventing and mitigating human rights risks with a focus on child labor and forced labor in its extended cocoa supply chain are included in today’s report.
The company has championed the Living Income Differential (LID), and was in fact the first chocolate company to support the LID fee enacted by the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana, has consistently purchased its cocoa with the LID to support cocoa farmers, and has been vocal in calling on others to do the same.
Furthermore, it has helped empower women socially and economically by doubling the Village Savings and Loans Associations program membership in 2020, reaching more than 24,000 members, plus a $10M commitment to CARE to reach more than 60,000 by 2025; and with new research with KIT Royal Tropical Institute on gender, including a unique empathy study grounded in the voices of women and girls in cocoa communities and their views on actions to address gender inequality and disempowerment.