World’s biggest chocolate companies melt under consumer pressure
23 April 2013
More sweet news today for chocolate lovers: the biggest chocolate maker in the world, Mondelez International, has agreed to take steps to address inequality facing women in their cocoa supply chains—thanks to pressure from customers like you. Read more...
You Spoke. Mars and Nestle listened.
26 March 2013
Here’s an Easter treat for chocolate lovers: proof that no brand is so big it can ignore its customers.
A month ago Oxfam launched Behind the Brands with a call to “change the way the food companies that make your favorite brands do business.” In just a few weeks thousands of tweets were sent to the companies, including a huge Thunderclap on International Women's Day and many thousands of Facebook shares and comments. More than 60,000 of us have taken action to ask the ‘Big 3’ chocolate companies, Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé, to do right by the women who grow their cocoa. Today, two of them have shown they’re listening.
After more than 60,000 people took action, Mars and Nestle have agreed to do more to ‘know and show’ how women are being treated in their cocoa supply chain, to commit to a plan of action, to work to sign on to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, and to work with industry organizations to address gender issues. These moves are happening because of the pressure you applied.
Oxfam is encouraged by their commitments and the effects this could eventually have on women cocoa farmers around the world.
Deisi, a cocoa farmer in Brazil and a young leader there, has always believed that companies can help. “We should seek partnerships with companies that could help
us increase and improve our production and also help us in transporting and selling our cocoa.”
In this billion dollar industry, women working in cocoa production often earn less than $2 a day and face uphill battles on accessing support and training. Mars, Mondelez and Nestle have the power to change this and to help women to succeed and overcome the poverty that they and their communities face.
“Women cocoa farmers and consumers around the globe have made their voices heard,” said Alison Woodhead, campaign manager for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Campaign. “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 low pay, discrimination and unequal opportunity.
Oxfam is looking forward to working with Mars and Nestle to ensure they keep their promises to women and now looks to Mondelez to follow suit with similar commitments.
Mondelez International, which controls 15% of the global chocolate market, has yet to act. So the question is - Mondelez, will you listen to your customers and act?
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Keep the pressure on Mondelez International
Momentum Rising for Behind The Brands
25 March 2013
On International Women's Day, March 8th 2013, activists gathered around the country to stand up for women cocoa farmers. From M&M's World in Times Square, to the Nestle USA headquarters in Los Angeles, we called for justice for the millions of small-scale women cocoa farmers who work hard to lift their families out of poverty. Chocolate is a $100 billion industry, but most cocoa farmers live on less than $2 a day. The top 3 chocolate companies -- Mars, Mondelez and Nestle -- buy more than 30% of the world's cocoa, and their policies could help these women lift themselves and their families out of poverty
12 March 2013
The last of the Big 10 companies to publicly comment on our scorecard, Danone, has responded to Behind the Brands and Oxfam has replied.
Thank you - we're out there making a difference
8 March 2013
Phew, it's been a busy International Women's Day and a very inspiring one.
Today has seen more than 1200 people send tweets and Facebook posts all together in a huge Thunderclap to support our action telling Mars, Mondelez International and Nestle to stop putting women last in their cocoa supply chains.
More than 5,000 people have signed the petition today and many more are joining them every hour. We might just meet our current target of 20,000 actions by the end of the day. Amazing. (Edit, 18.09GMT - the response has been so great we've updated the target, we're now pushing for 30,000 - even more pressure, even more amazing.)
We've also seen campaigners at M&Ms World in New York, and outside the American HQs of Nestle and Mondelez International. Follow @OxfamAmerica for pictures and updates.
There are already encouraging signs that all your hard work and support is beginning to work. Just 10 days after launching Behind the Brands Nestle has written a public letter committing to explore ways to improve their approach to women in their supply chain. We'll be watching this closely and updating you on further progress. Read the Nestle letter and our response here.
There will be more updates next week. Thanks for your incredible support and please do share the campaign as widely as you can - this is just the beginning.
Are women from Mars?
1 March 2013
Tuesday’s Behind The Brands campaign launch kicked off with a call for Mars, Mondelez International and Nestle to stop ignoring the women who are working in their cocoa supply chains. Between them, these three companies net more than $45 billion a year in confectionary sales. But throughout their cocoa supply chains – from growers to pickers – women are getting a raw deal.
Thousands of people have already taken the action - people who love the chocolate these companies produce, but hate the way they put women in their cocoa supply chains last. So thank you!
The action sparked an immediate response from Mars via a blog post, describing their Sustainable Cocoa Initiative.
“… the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative is designed to work with these communities to help ease social hurdles like poverty, lack of education, and lack of opportunity by addressing the core challenges that farmers face. We recognize the important role women will play in addressing these problems and in moving their communities forward.”
Nestlé welcomed their position at the top of our Behind the Brands scorecard and referred to their work with farmers:
“By working cooperatively with more than 600,000 farmers that provide our raw materials, we are in a unique position to make a real impact.”
Mondelez's response included highlighting their Cocoa Life initiative:
“Since October, we’ve committed $600 million over 10 years through our Cocoa Life and Coffee Made Happy initiatives to build sustainable supplies and thriving communities to benefit millions of people in the developing world.”
Fundamental change needed
The truth is, we know that all three of these companies have projects that seek to help farmers. We also know that these projects have in some cases reached out successfully to women farmers and workers. But the projects the companies tout are piecemeal at best. What’s needed are fundamental changes to the policies that actually govern the way these companies do business.
Together Mars, Mondelez and Nestle purchase nearly one third of the world’s harvested cocoa. They have the power to influence suppliers, governments, and certification bodies and they can influence policy shifts and practices in the sector.
None of the three companies get good scores for their policies on women in our Behind the Brands scorecard, and Mars and Mondelez both get the lowest possible score, which means their policies on women are simply unfit for modern purpose.
Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign sets out three clear steps for Mars, Mondelez and Nestle to comprehensively tackle the unfair treatment of women in their cocoa supply chains.
The three companies have shown that they’re willing to make commitments on important issues such as sourcing certified cocoa. It’s now time for these chocolate giants to show the same leadership on womens’ rights.
The response to Behind the Brands so far
28 February 2013
There has been a great response to the Behind the Brands launch on Tuesday (Feb 26). Consumers clearly care about the people behind the foods they buy. Thousands of people have taken action; the start we hope of a movement to reverse the 100-year legacy of the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies in taking advantage of cheap land and labor to make mass products at huge profits.
People have asked the companies tough questions on Twitter. In Beijing, campaigners talked to shoppers in one of the city’s biggest shopping malls. In the US they went to the headquarters of Coca-cola, Pepsi and Mondelez and spoke to employees about the problems their bosses’ policies – or lack thereof – are causing poor food producers. The New York Times, the Financial Times, Reuters, the BBC and the Guardian were among the media that covered an issue that, until now, has been largely overlooked.
We were very keen to hear how the companies would respond.
Danone did not respond at all.
Associated British Foods – the worst performer on Oxfam’s scorecard – said "the idea that ABF would use a ‘veil of secrecy’ in order to hide the ‘human cost’ of its supply chain is simply ridiculous.” It is understandable that ABF would be disappointed at being the lowest scoring company of all ten of the food giants we ranked. But the facts behind those scores are clear for everyone to see.
Coca-Cola reiterated its commitment to the environment, sustainability and women workers, but it did not properly address its poor scores on land and farmers.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi met with Oxfam staff who had been handing out materials at the company’s US headquarters. She was surprised and disappointed to hear that PepsiCo scored lower than its competitors. That Indra Nooyi paid such personal attention to the news is promising, at least, and we hope that her senior team can translate this concern into action.
Mars said it appreciated Oxfam’s focus on the “serious issues” facing cocoa farmers and recognized the important role women must play in tackling them. We think that the steps Mars has taken to do right by small-scale farmers, including its commitment to source 100% certified cocoa by 2020, are very welcome. But the company’s individual projects to invest in smallholder farmers must also be accompanied by more comprehensive policies extending to land, water and women’s rights, too.
Mondelez said that it had recently committed $600 million over 10 years to it Cocoa Life and Coffee Made Happy programs to build sustainable supplies and thriving communities. It also described its global leadership in sourcing certified cocoa. Mondelez said that while it was pleased Oxfam was raising awareness of problems, it felt that the Behind the Brands scorecard was a “missed opportunity” to engage companies in positive change. Oxfam is happy to hear Mondelez reiterating its public commitment to the people who grow their ingredients. However, just listing out its community initiatives – although they are all very welcome and undoubtedly great for those local communities that are benefiting – alone is not enough. We made a specific request that Mondelez commit to a full assessment of gender inequality in its cocoa supply chains followed by a plan of action to address problems.
General Mills and Kelloggs committed to review the findings and to do more.
Nestle – in a formal response on its website – said it was taking Oxfam’s challenges seriously. The company highlighted its support to small scale farmers, to the sustainable use of water and in addressing child labor. But the company did score poorly on land and women – areas of real concern one that relies so heavily on land and on women farmers and workers. Nestle does not have any guidelines requiring suppliers to take a zero tolerance approach to land grabbing, nor does it know how many women are involved in their cocoa supply chain and whether these women are at risk of exclusion of exploitation.
Unilever responded that it supports campaigns such as Oxfam’s on global food security and welcomed our emphasis on greater transparency and the importance of the role of women and of land rights, which the company says it has highlighted at the G20. However Unilever too said Behind the Brands was a “missed opportunity” to look at all the organizations that needed to come together on the critical issue of global food security. “Change of this nature requires wide partnerships, and needs to stretch beyond looking at the role of branded food companies”, it said.
Unilever is right to say that food security challenges will only be tackled if they are addressed comprehensively by a range of actors from consumers to governments to companies. Food companies need to take a leading role in making this happen as Unilever is doing, for example, by including smallholder farmers in food value chains. We look forward to seeing specific new commitments and public actions from Unilever to address where there are gaps in their sustainability such as preventing land grabs and pursuing equality for women.
Overall, we think that a handful of the ‘Big 10’ companies went to some length to engage positively with the arguments that published in Behind the Brands. But with a few exceptions, we feel that their responses overall have been tepid and largely predictable at best – an underwhelming reply to the scale and urgency of the problem, given the undoubted power that they wield.
Sign up to join our Twitter Thunderclap – which targets the 3 companies from our "Truth about women and chocolate" action and which we’ll release on International Women’s Day, 8th March
Go behind the brands you buy. Day 1
26 February 2013
What do Twinings, Toblerone and Tropicana have in common? The same as Coca Cola, Cheerios and Cadbury's, Ovaltine and Oreos, Pringles and Pop tarts. They're all made by the 'Big 10' food companies, who between them make over $1bn a day.
Here at Oxfam we’ve spent a good part of the past 18 months looking at how the world’s biggest food firms - household names like Nestle, Coca Cola, Pepsi and Kellogg - do business. While some are doing better than others, overall, the results are bad news. But the good news is that no brand is so big it can ignore its customers – and that’s where you come in.
We know you already think hard about what you buy, so we’re not asking you to feel guilty about it. Instead we want to work with you to push for these companies we buy from everyday to do better. We’ve created a simple ‘Behind the Brands’ Companies Scorecard to compare how 10 biggest food companies score on issues from water to workers. The results aren’t pretty – and when it comes to supporting the women in supply chains all companies are failing.
Start with the women behind your chocolate
3 companies - Nestle, Mars and Mondelez - buy over 30% of the cocoa grown worldwide. But the women who grow and pick that cocoa are getting a raw deal.
This matters because it’s women who most often provide food for their families, and thousands of these women farmers and their families are going hungry. And because you buy the bars, you really can change the way those chocolate companies do business.
For decades, these companies have put women front and centre in their advertising but have ignored the women they rely on to grow the chocolate. It’s time for Nestle, Mars and Mondelez to LOOK, LISTEN and ACT for the women who grow their cocoa.
But first, they’ll listen to you. You don’t need to stop buying chocolate. But you can stop the big chocolate companies from putting women last. Sign the petition now and urge these companies to act.
Because if you think you can’t change the food system, you really need to think again. You’re more powerful than any of the world’s biggest food companies. Without you, they won’t stay big for long.