Mars is to invest $1bn over the coming ten years in a major supplier relationship management endeavour aimed at stamping out unethical practices such as child labour and deforestation.
The move follows growing concerns about deforestation activities and child labour in the cocoa industry supply chains. In 2017, the world’s biggest cocoa product manufacturers in the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) linked up to create the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a coalition that aims to abolish deforestation and the degradation of forest cover within the cocoa manufacture supply chain.
While Mars and other major names in the cocoa production industry have acknowledged the existence of these problems for years, effective solutions to remedy them have been thin on the ground. This has led some critics to speculate that profits, cost reduction and sourcing savings have taken precedence over ethical supply chain considerations for these organisations.
The cocoa giant has now pledged that all of its cocoa products will be responsibly sourced by 2025. It has also made it clear that “responsible sourcing” involves guaranteeing that the company will not contribute in any way to child labour and deforestation. To encourage these practices at every level of the supply chain, the organisation plans to pay farmers more for implementing responsible practices.
The firm’s Global Vice President of Cocoa, John Ament, told the Reuters news agency that Mars had come to the view that its previous reliance on certifiers like the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade had been insufficient to deliver good wages for farmers and ensure ethical practices. Farmers, he conceded, had actually been losing income even though demand for cocoa has been expanding (a 2016 study from TechSci Research projects that the US chocolate market alone will exceed $30bn in value by 2020).
The new initiative will involve enhanced first-hand visibility and traceability in its supply chain via the deployment of GPS mapping to ensure that no cocoa comes to the company from protected forests. Mars will also work directly alongside 75,000 farmers to elevate productivity and diversify their crops for more consistent and lucrative income streams.
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