Mondelēz International commits additional $600 million to Cocoa Life scheme, amid major sector tests
Mondelēz International has pledged a major additional investment of $600 million into its Cocoa Life initiative, as the sector in West Africa continues to face key child labour and deforestation challenges, reports Neill Barston.
According to the business, the significant extra revenue will take the total sum placed into its flagship engagement scheme to $1 billion by 2030, aiming to work with around 300,000 farmers.
The business acknowledged that its actions are targeting core sector collaboration to help address systemic environmental and human rights challenges and improve cocoa farmer livelihoods – with farmers hit by the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, reduced cocoa prices and logistics issues and soaring costs of fertilisers for their crops.
However, with the most recent industry studies revealing that 1.5 million young people in Ghana and Ivory Coast still remaining vulnerable to child labour, major tests for the sector remain. These challenges were recently put under the microscope in the UK with a Channel 4 documentary that examined the Cadbury brand cocoa supply chain, which claimed evidence of child labour cases, with minors as young as 10 found to be performing hazardous labour in the “Dispatches’ programme screened this April.
The company responded with a written statement to the screening of the programme that it took its responsibilities on sustainable sourcing and tackling systemic issues relating to child labour seriously, as evidenced by its engagement programmes.
Notably, at the end of 2020, the company delivered a sector first in identifying the key farmer income gap within West Africa, which its analysis stated stood at a figure of $10 billion – with the region suffering from fluctuating commodity prices impacting on cocoa since then, which is believed to have worsened the situation, according to many observers, including Fairtrade International, which has stated that supply chains in the region remain in crisis.
Speaking on its latest investment into the Cocoa Life scheme, Dirk Van de Put, Chairman & CEO, Mondelēz International, said: “As one of the world’s leading snacking companies, it is a priority to continue making our most important ingredients, such as cocoa, right, and Cocoa Life sits at the heart of this strategy.
“While we are excited about the promise of our investments, we are calling for more sector-wide effort and actions to drive greater impact, including new private-public partnerships, as we aim to catalyse ground-breaking collaboration to help move cocoa forward together.”
As the company noted, it introduced its Cocoa Life venture in 2012 to secure supply of more sustainable cocoa and establish an integrated approach striving to tackle the root causes of systemic issues in cocoa including farm productivity, farmer livelihoods, community development, and helping combat child labour and deforestation, together in one programme.
Notably, as the company asserted, ten years on, the program has reached critical scale with over 200,000 farmers in the program, $400 million invested by the end of 2022 and measurable impact results including: farmer net incomes have increased ~15% in Ghana and ~33% in Ivory Coast, cocoa yields are higher, with double-digit percentage increases in farmers earning a living income, 61% of Cocoa Life communities in West Africa covered with Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems, with a goal to reach 100% by 2025.
According to the business, a number of key lessons have been learnt over the past decade, that will enable it to accelerate the Cocoa Life programme in increasing its scope. This includes applying an integrated approach to help deliver impact at scale suited to the farmer, community, and landscape; focusing on enabling farmers to increase their income; and accelerating innovation in cocoa production supported by incentives designed to professionalize smallholder cocoa farming and introduce climate-resilient, new producing models.
By 2030, Cocoa Life aims to increase the number of farming households reaching a living income, enhance child protection systems and access to quality education in Cocoa Life communities, and seek no deforestation on Cocoa Life farms globally. Program focus areas will include:
Farmer Income: Working collaboratively to develop a mechanism that supports a decent price for farmers and working with women groups to help develop additional business opportunities.
Child Protection & Education: Continuing to scale up Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems and actively engaging in public-private partnerships working towards improving quality education.
No Deforestation: Helping to strengthen deforestation monitoring systems, promote agroforestry and make forest conservation more attractive.
“As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Cocoa Life, we are excited to announce the next phase,” said Christine Montenegro McGrath, Senior Vice President and Chief Impact and Sustainability Officer, Mondelēz International. “While progress and impact have been made, cocoa farmers and their communities are still facing big challenges. We are passionate about helping to drive lasting change across the whole cocoa sector and are doubling down on Cocoa Life’s integrated approach because we know only a sector-wide long-term strategy, supported by action by all industry players, producing and consuming governments, and civil society will lead to lasting impact.”
With sustainability now one of the four pillars of the company’s long-term growth strategy – aiming to create long-term value for the business and its stakeholders along the value chain – this investment builds on key lessons learned through the Cocoa Life’s integrated approach and 10 years of measurable impact results while aiming to accelerate impact at scale in cocoa.