Mars Will Invest $1 Billion In Sustainable and Ethical Cocoa Supply Chain

Mars Will Invest $1 Billion In Sustainable and Ethical Cocoa Supply Chain
iStock/DianaLundin

Candy maker Mars says the world’s cocoa supply chain is broken — rife with issues from deforestation to child labor and unsustainable sourcing. But a new $1 billion commitment from the M&Ms and Snickers brand hopes to change that.

“The cocoa supply chain as it works today is broken,” John Ament, global vice president of cocoa at Mars, told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s time to recognize this and to build a new model and a new approach that focuses on putting the smallholder at the center.”

The $1 billion ten-year program aims to help the company source all of its cocoa “responsibly” by 2025.

Mars will employ full traceability accounting to mitigate deforestation. It will work both internally and with the help of third-party certifying agents, but the company says it won’t limit itself to certification.
“Certification isn’t enough,” Ament said. “Our belief is that we need to set more demanding standards than certification sets today.”

Under previous commitments, 50 percent of Mars’s cocoa now bears certification through organizations including Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade. The new investment will take its commitment past that.

The new program will overhaul its supply model, even increasing the price it pays for cocoa sourced with the highest standards, said Ament.

“We’ll see a combination of increased premiums overall and a bigger share of those premiums going to the farmers.”

Mars says it plans to employ technology such as GPS mapping to ensure forest stay intact. It will also work closely to monitor suppliers for child labor violations and interventions as needed.

Ament said it’s a program that could pose challenges along the way, but for the 75,000 families and suppliers it works with, the time is right to make the shift.

“We’re convinced that these farmers need a broader source of income to ensure that they have a resilient model, with income spread throughout the year rather than just two peak seasons of cocoa.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.