Julie Kaszton- Free2Work
Mars. Inc., one of the world’s largest food companies generating $28 billion in annual global revenue, announced a strategic partnership with Fairtrade International yesterday. Mars has dominated the chocolate industry for years and with recognizable brands such as M&M’s, Snickers, Dove, Galaxy, Milky Way, and Twix, the company’s decision to support Fairtrade’s efforts to positively impact the lives of more cocoa farmers is monumental.
In addition to introducing the first Fairtrade Mars product, MALTESERS®, to stores in the UK and Ireland in 2012, the agreement enables Fairtrade and Mars to work together to make supporting sustainable livelihoods for cocoa farmers a standard in the cocoa industry. Part of Mars’ commitment is to scale its purchases of Fairtrade cocoa as well as explore how to effectively empower other confectionary companies to do the same.
ILRF promotes Fairtrade in cocoa because these programs include requirements that drive toward the root cause of farmers’ poverty and their dependence on child labor. These requirements include: the establishment of a minimum price for goods produced, the implementation of democratic organization, and offering robust support for small farmers. By choosing to don the Fairtrade (FLO) label for MALTESERS®, Mars is sending a clear message that upholding these standards is particularly important given the nature of the issues that plague the cocoa sector in West Africa.
As a cocoa industry giant, Mars Inc.’s commitment to take Fairtrade certification requirements seriously is a great step forward in the company’s accountability to consumers and producers alike. It is also a call to action for other major chocolate companies to follow suit. This was reiterated by several confectionary industry representatives at the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) meeting, who took Mars’ announcement as an indication that other companies should step up to the plate and consider adopting Fairtrade certification. Vice President of Mars Global Chocolate, Barry Parkin, explained: "This agreement is a big step towards fulfilling our shared mission to empower farmers to build vibrant, sustainable livelihoods, and we're very excited to work with Fairtrade on ways to enable commodity certification to scale across the entire industry."
International Labor Rights Forum has pressured Hershey for years to “raise the bar” and improve its cocoa sourcing practices, with no real progress from the company. Now that Mars is making a commitment to ethical sourcing, this is the perfect opportunity for Hershey, an industry competitor, to prove that it, too, cares about its workers.
Julie is the Outreach Coordinator and Associate Researcher for Free2Work, an online resource for information on company’s supply chain policies and corporate practices.