The confectionery giant has widely communicated its efforts towards sustainable cocoa production in recent years, claiming to have spent more than $10m a year on initiatives with small farmers. It has had a relationship with the Rainforest Alliance (RA) since 1998.
But the new collaboration with the certifier has aims that outpace any of its aims to date. By 2020, Mars wants 100,000 metric tonnes of cocoa certified each year for use in its products, said to be “a significant proportion of Mars’ total cocoa requirements”.
It is unclear whether certification for the remainder of its cocoa will be provided by another organisation. But Paul Michaels, Mars CEO and president said the announcement about the collaboration is “a major step towards our global commitment to purchase only cocoa that is certified as being produced in a sustainable manner”.
He added: “We are determined to put our principals into action, restoring cocoa supply for the next generation.”
The company plans to implement its plan bit-by-bit, or brand-by-brand: from 2010 its Galaxy brand sold in the UK and Ireland will use RA-certified cocoa.
What sustainability means
The new agreement will establishes links between cocoa farmers that meet the RA’s criteria and criteria set out by other members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a coalition of NGOs that has developed standards.
It will teach producers new techniques to improve yield and increase income, thereby helping families and communities, and protecting the environment.
“Importantly, Mars will be able to reward farmers directly for their efforts in production, biodiversity preservation and other aspects of sustainable farming, whether economic, social or environmental,” said Howard-Yana Shapiro, global director of plant science and external research at Mars Incorporated.
Do good cocoa
Mars’ announcement comes on the heels of a similar pledge by competitor Cadbury, which said last month that it will source only fair-trade cocoa for its popular Dairy Milk chocolate bars by the end of this summer.
The move will increase sales for those farmers who already have Fairtrade certification, and enable many more farmers to sell their produce under the system.
Since Cadbury sells 300 million chocolate bars per year, the appearance of the Fairtrade mark on packaging “will introduce a lot of new people to Fairtrade,” a spokesperson for certifier Fairtrade Foundation told FoodNavigator.com.