Mars Wrigley Confectionery has decided to put smallholder farmers at the center of an ambitious new strategy.

The maker of chocolate for more than 100 years and one of the world’s largest buyers of cocoa, has launched a new plan for overhauling its cocoa supply chain.

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Called Cocoa for Generations, the plan places the interest of the smallholder farmer at its center, helps to safeguard children and forests, and creates a pathway for cocoa farmers and cocoa-growing communities to thrive. The plan is backed by an investment of $1 billion over 10 years and is incremental to the Sustainable in a Generation Plan investment that Mars announced last year.

“For nearly 40 years we’ve been working to achieve sustainable cocoa production,” said John Ament, Global Vice President of 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 center of our ambitions and actions.”

 

Despite significant progress, many farmers haven’t experienced improvements in their incomes or living conditions at an adequate pace. Children continue to labor in hazardous conditions and deforestation continues with farming occurring in protected forest areas. Mars 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.

The Cocoa for Generations plan consists of two pillars: 

Firstly, to have 100% of its cocoa from the Responsible Cocoa program responsibly sourced globally and traceable by 2025. Responsible Cocoa means having systems in place to address deforestation, child labor and higher incomes for farmers.

Secondly, the company 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, Mars 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.

“We applaud Mars for recognizing the role of the smallholder farmer at the heart of any ambitious plan in cocoa sustainability,” said Fairtrade on hearing the news. “Without progress on incomes for these farmers, sector-wide transformation is not possible. We need more companies showing leadership on issues in this way.”

The Rainforest Alliance chimed in too: “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 a relationship which puts more focus on collaboration between producers, NGO’s, companies and governments.”

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