Mars calls for collaboration to secure cocoa sustainability

12 October 2012

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12 October 2012 | Anna Reynolds

Mars has called for the chocolate industry to collaborate to provide the ‘billions of dollars of investment’ needed to ensure sustainability and create positive impacts for farmers.

In the publication of its Principles in Action Summary 2011 Mars identified the groups and companies that have made singular investments towards a more sustainable sector but said there needs to be more collaboration to meet the industry’s long-term demand for cocoa.

Mars itself has invested $30 million (£18.7 million) in cocoa sustainability in 2011, spending more than $20 million (£12.5 million) annually in the previous two years. Earlier this year Mars announced it had met its goal of purchasing 10 per cent of its total supply as certified sustainable and in 2012 it will exceed its original target of 20 per cent, making it the largest user of certified cocoa in the world. Based on current buying arrangements, Mars projects that this will be nearly 90,000 metric tonnes of certified cocoa this year.

Barry Parkin, Mars global chocolate procurement and sustainability head said in a statement: “We believe that the best approach to cocoa sustainability is to partner with our industry peers, governments, certification organisations and NGOs for the common good.

“The billions of dollars of investment needed requires the large global manufacturers to work together to make this happen at a meaningful scale. We can see that the industry is taking this challenge very seriously, as there is a lot of good work happening, but we strongly believe that all of these efforts can be combined as part of a sector-wide effort to achieve the results we all want to see."

The summary suggested companies should collaborate to expand previous, smaller scale programmes and to increase the focus on the world’s five to six million cocoa farmers as the chief priority. 

Mars aims to purchase 100 percent of its supply from certified sustainable cocoa sources by 2020. 

The money Mars invests will contribute to research, technology transfer to farmers, and certification over the next decade. A programme Mars is running is called ‘Vision for Change’, which helps cocoa farmers in the Soubre region of Ivory Coast, West Africa, which is the world’s largest cocoa producer. Mars is in the process of establishing Cocoa Development Centres (CDCs) to provide growers with planting material and technology to improve their farms. CDCs are also being built in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines to help farmers in those countries.

Mars is also working with international third-party certification organizations such as Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International, and UTZ Certified to make sure their direct investments will have greater reach throughout the cocoa growing community.

Other companies are also becoming involved. Recently Barry Callebaut revealed it has extended its UTZ Certified training activities in Ivory Coast throughout the cocoa supply chain as part of its ‘Cocoa Horizons’ initiative.

Nicholas Camu, group manager of Cocoa Horizons, said: “Most cocoa farmers are not members of farmer organizations and sell their beans to local intermediaries. To advance sustainable cocoa production, and to complement our work with farmer organisations, we are developing innovative programs to reach many of these unaffiliated farmers and intermediaries.”

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