Posted on Thu, April 23, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
1 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Food Justice, Labeling, News, Current Events,
by Slow Food USA Intern Carol Dacey-Charles
As reported in the Washington Post, Mars, Inc. has partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to ensure that its Galaxy line of candy bars sold in England and Ireland will be made from sustainable cocoa by 2010, with a higher aim of its entire line of chocolates to be Rainforest certified by 2020. Apparently pressured by its rival Cadbury, who announced that its Dairy Milk chocolate bar will be Fair Trade Certified by the end of the summer, Mars has made this push toward sustainability in order to compete in the more environmentally conscious British market.
The Rainforest Alliance accepted the Mar’s challenge to bring enough farms up to code so that 100,000 tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa would be available each year by 2020. This will include education and support for thousands of family farmersthe largest growers of cocoa beans whose farms average 4-6 acres each.
This is not Mars first venture into sustainable agriculture partnerships. As reported on their own websiteדIn 2008, Mars Drinks achieved Rainforest Alliance certification for three Flavia coffee offerings; and in that same year, we began the Mars Partnership for African Cocoa Communities of Tomorrow (iMPACT), through which Mars has been working with cocoa farmers alongside the Rainforest Alliance and other experienced development partners to support farm and community development in West Africa.
“Mars’ commitment to buying sustainable cocoa is unprecedented in size and scope, and the benefits to farmers, farmworkers, tropical environments and wildlife will be tangible,” said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. “This initiative is an example of the tremendous impact global companies can have when they commit to sustainability. I have recently returned from Ghana, where I saw firsthand the problems, the improvements and the possibilities.”
While the move toward more sustainable resources has received much praise, labor rights advocates and consumer organizations still see room for more improvement. A few of these voices could be heard at CommonDreams.org:
Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, “While it is important that Mars is taking a step forward toward sustainable cocoa farming, this recent announcement does not do enough to ensure that workers are not exploited in the company’s global supply chain. We have been calling on chocolate companies to support Fair Trade since 2001 and we encourage Mars, as well as other major US chocolate companies like Hershey, to go further in ensuring that they contribute to higher working and living standards for cocoa farmers.”
Ryan Zinn, Campaigns Coordinator of the Organic Consumers Association, said, “Consumers are demanding ethical and sustainable chocolate with strong labor standards for cocoa farmers. The Organic Consumers Association urges Mars to incorporate certified USDA organic and Fair Trade cocoa into its supply chain.”
As more and more companies makes moves towards sustainability, towards fairer payment, the same questions will continue to arise (questions covered before on this blog, here and here), namely: this is good but is it good enough? or would I be better off supporting a small company? what are their motives for these improvements? does it matter?
In the meantime, might we direct you to a small chocolate company we love…? Taza Chocolate anyone?
pic courtesy of The Pack.