A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Less than two months ago, Oxfam called on the three largest chocolate companies to do more for the women who grow the cocoa that is used in Oreos, M&Ms and Crunch bars—just to name a few.
We were overwhelmed by the support that consumers gave to this campaign. Over 100,000 people took action to tell the companies to step up and find out how women are being treated in their cocoa supply chains, report on the data, put in place action plans and work with others to address the inequalities that they face. Mars, Mondelez, and Nestle have now agreed to do just that.
Doing the right thing
The reality is that most companies want to do the right thing. Most people working in the food and beverage industry understand that those at the bottom of the supply chain are typically in poverty ridden communities in the developing south and they want to know that sourcing from them improves their livelihoods. But for too long, the industry has relied on cheap labor, poor pricing structures and ineffective verification mechanisms that barely reach below first tier suppliers.
That is why Oxfam launched the Behind the Brands campaign. Companies want to know that consumers care about these issues too, not just NGOs. That is why our campaign relies so heavily on supporters and consumers—they literally give those champions inside the companies that want to do right by the people from whom they source the justification to do so in board rooms and with investors.
The cocoa campaign is just the first action in our Behind the Brands campaign, we’ll be launching more and we’ll need this kind of response and maybe even more to hold other companies accountable.
Levelling the playing field
Women have the potential to be successful cocoa farmers and workers but they aren’t playing on the same field as men. All cocoa farmers have it tough - typically making less than $2 a day - but women have even more hurdles; they lack access to training, credit and inputs, so naturally their yields are typically lower. They are less likely to be members of cooperatives and thus receive the benefits of membership.
Once companies understand the barriers facing women cocoa farmers and workers they can begin to address these issues. And the good news is that this is a win-win solution for women and chocolate companies because cocoa yields are in demand!
If companies can help women to be more successful farmers and workers then yields will increase and food security will as well.
Mars, Mondelez and Nestle are taking the first steps to commit to the empowerment of women and to find out how women are being treated in their supply chains. They have committed to signing on to the UN Global Compact’s Women’s Empowerment Principles within a month’s time. They have agreed to publish the data from first stage impact assessments in a one year’s time and publish concrete action plans to address the issues.
Oxfam will make sure that these companies stick to their promises but we can’t do it without consumers and supporters. We’ll put out progress reports so consumers and supporters can keep track and hold Mars, Mondelez and Nestle to their word.
So stay tuned to learn more about what companies will do for women cocoa farmers and workers - then we can all feel good about eating the chocolate brands that we love.
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Press release: Mondelēz International agrees to address women’s inequality in chocolate production (23 April 2013)