The UK's best known chocolate brand, Cadbury, is to adapt its current agreement with Fairtrade.
Parent company Mondelez International says it plans to bring all Cadbury lines under its existing in-house scheme, Cocoa Life.
According to the Mondelez website: "Cocoa Life is a holistic, third party verified cocoa sustainability programme. Farming communities working with Cocoa Life gain knowledge and skills that improve their livelihoods, strengthen their communities and inspire the new generation of cocoa farmers."
Cocoa prices have hovered around $3,000 for the past three years, but have recently fallen below $2,500. Under Fairtrade rules, farmers must be paid at least $2,000 per tonne. The Cocoa Life programme does not specify a minimum price for cocoa but Mondelez said farmers would not be any worse off under the new programme.
It remains unclear to what extent investment and spending would be monitored under Cocoa Life, and whether farmers would be able to have appropriate influence over the prices they get for their cocoa.
Critics have warned the change could confuse customers and fear that shared standards around ethical trade will be lost if more firms drop Fairtrade.
Anna Taylor, executive director of think-tank the Food Foundation, said: “Work by Cadbury to make their supply chain more transparent and deliver greater public good in partnership with Fairtrade is very welcome. But there is a risk that if every company has their own mark it will be extremely difficult for consumers to determine which mark represents the best, independently verified standard.”
Fairtrade, however, welcomed the decision. Barbara Crowther, director of policy and public affairs at Fairtrade said: “We are going to be working even more closely with Cadbury – right at the heart of their $400m Cocoa Life programme where it matters, on the ground with farmers.
“Cocoa for Cadbury is going to be traded through loyalty payments embedded into Cocoa Life itself and we will do work to hold that programme accountable. It’s an entirely different way of working with a company… it’s the next stage of evolution.”
Mondelez will work with Fairtrade on a number of initiatives, such as programs relating to education on sustainability issues and “building resilience to climate change”, which farmers complain is a threat to their livelihoods.
To date, the Cocoa Life program has been rolled out across more than 795 cocoa farming communities around the world and independent verification shows that farmers’ in the Cocoa Life programme in Ghana have seen their incomes increase 49% more than farms outside the programme, according to Mondelez.
Glenn Caton, president, northern Europe at Mondelez International, said: “Through Cocoa Life, we want to become an accountable partner for our cocoa farmers, not just a buyer. We are directly connecting buyers to farmers, enabling them to build long-term businesses.
“We want to use our scale as the world’s largest chocolate maker to drive positive change for the communities on which we depend. We support Fairtrade’s vision to drive sustainable livelihoods through empowered farming organisations and communities and fairer terms of trade. We are proud to have Fairtrade’s support in helping us achieve this.”
Cadbury products in the UK and Ireland will carry a small Fairtrade logo on the back of packs and a larger Cocoa Life logo on the front. It will be a phased roll-out starting from May next year with all products covered by 2019.