Mars will invest $1 billion in sustainable cocoa supply chain and wants to move beyond certification

In September 2018, Mars Wrigley Confectionery launched a new plan to improve the sustainability of its cocoa supply chain. Cocoa for Generations is backed by an investment of $1 billion over 10 years.

Mars aims to have 100 percent of its cocoa from the Responsible Cocoa program responsibly sourced globally and traceable by 2025. "Responsible Cocoa means having systems in place to address deforestation, child labor and higher incomes for farmers." This announcement seems a step backwards because the company has previously commited to buying 100% certified cocoa by 2020.

As part of the new scheme, Mars is committed to collaborate with Fairtrade and Rainforest alliance to improve audit controls, child labor monitoring, traceability and premiums paid to farmers. The company will also employ GPS technology to mitigate deforestation.  This has been confirmed by Michael Gidney CEO of The Fairtrade Foundation: “Fairtrade certification remains part of the programme and we will work together with Mars to bring a better, more sustainable future to the farmers.”

But John Ament, Global Vice President of Cocoa, told Reuters that the company is now looking to move “beyond certification”, which has not delivered the impact the company had hoped for. “Certification isn’t enough,” he said. “Our belief is that we need to set more demanding standards than certification sets today.” "Currently, 50 percent of the cocoa that Mars buys is certified by schemes such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade. Mars said it will maintain these volumes and potentially increase them if it sees improvements in the schemes’ standards. Certification - designed to ensure more ethical practices and better earnings - has also been widely criticized as doing little to improve the lives of farmers, as the premiums they receive under the biggest of these schemes have been falling."*

* Ana Ionova, Mars aims to tackle "broken" cocoa model with new sustainability scheme, Reuters, September 19, 2018