Wednesday March 27, 2013
Mars, Nestle Respond To Women In Cocoa Criticisms
Cleveland — In response to Oxfam International’s recent Behind the Brands campaign — in which the organization called on chocolate companies to take responsibility for unfair labor practices for women in the supply chain — Mars Chocolate North America and Nestle SA have declared supporting initiatives.
Behind the Brands Campaign Manager Alison Woodhead says: “Mars and Nestle have taken important steps to show the farmers they rely on, their customers and the rest of the food industry that they care about the conditions women face in their supply chains including pay, discrimination and unequal opportunity.”
By May 1, Mars says it will sign the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles. In addition, the company claims it will evaluate women in its Ivory Coast Vision for Change program, which provides cocoa farmers with training in updated agricultural methods, and will publish a plan based on the assessment by April 2014. Mars will also help develop a gender equity evaluation for the entire sector that includes gender equity indicators based on the findings in the Vision for Change evaluation.
Come 2018, Mars says it will begin regularly reporting on the condition of women in cocoa production in its top four cocoa origin countries.
Mars Global chocolate Procurement and Sustainability Head Barry Parkin says: “Mars Chocolate knows firsthand how important women are to creating a better quality of life for the cocoa communities we work in. We've worked with women leaders in Soubre, as part of our Vision for Change program, and elsewhere, so it makes sense for us to be a part of an intentional approach to empowering women.”
In conjunction with the Fair Labor Association, Nestle has also committed to conducting an assessment, covering about 200 farms in ten villages. The company also says it is discussing its next steps in women’s empowerment with partners such as the World Cocoa Foundation, ADM Cocoa, United Nations Global Compact and the International Cocoa Initiative, and will publish an official plan of action when finalized.
In a letter to Oxfam responding to the organization’s claims, Nestle Executive Vice-President of Operations Jose Lopez says: “We will consult with experts to gather data and take necessary action to better support and promote women as farmers, workers and community members across our supply chains, and in particular in the area of cocoa. The role of women in cocoa cultivation needs to be made more visible, and their needs understood and listened to.”