You spoke Mars and Nestle listened

You spoke.  Mars and Nestle listened.

What did we achieve today thanks to you?

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 a few weeks, thousands of supporters made their voices heard by signing our petition, sending tweets to the companies and sharing on Facebook.  Thanks to the pressure from over 60,000 Oxfam supporters chocolate giants Mars and Nestlé have responded and publicly committed today, wow!

But what did Mars and Nestlé actually commit to and what could this mean for the women who grow and pick their cocoa?

What did Oxfam ask to begin with?

Mars, Mondelez, and Nestlé buy more than 30% of the cocoa grown worldwide. But throughout their supply chains women are getting a raw deal. The women who grow and pick cocoa deserve better - better pay, fairer treatment, opportunities for training, the chance to own the land they work, and more. Thousands of women farmers and their families are going hungry, but Oxfam thinks that this can be changed.  

First of all, to address a problem you need to acknowledge there is one so we asked them to Look at how women are treated by assessing and reporting on the condition of women in cocoa supply chains. Then we have asked them to engage directly with these women to Listen to what women have to say about how they are treated and to make public commitments to ensuring women's rights and opportunities. Finally we asked them to Act and take concrete steps to address these issues by putting policies in place to protect women’s rights and support and nurture their skills and to engage others to address gender issues.

What did Nestle and Mars commit to?

The great news is that today, Mars and Nestle have agreed to Look, Listen & Act


Nestlé has committed to carry out via the Fair Labor Association (FLA) an assessment in Ivory Coast – that will be made public by April 2014 - to map the role of women in the supply chain, the risks and obstacles that women face, and the role that women can play in improving labor conditions. Nestlé has also committed to immediately start to work with ADM Cocoa, a global trader, to collect data on the situation of women in the Nestlé Cocoa Plan supply chain (Nestlé’s plan to support small scale cocoa farmers and their communities) and it will define actions to improve women’s opportunities. While Oxfam appreciates that Nestlé is committing to these assessments and that is involving FLA and ADM, we think it is important that in its action plan Nestlé specifies which countries, besides Ivory Coast, it will focus on.

Similarly, Mars has committed to undertake a gender impact assessment by year’s end in the largest cocoa-growing region of Ivory Coast, the largest cocoa-growing country.  Mars will conduct a gender equity assessment of its Vision for Change (V4C) program in the Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire and will do this with guidance and validation from a qualified 3rd party expert, including informal consultation with Oxfam. Mars has also committed to begin regular and transparent reporting through impact assessments and will establish a plan of action to address the condition of women in cocoa production in its top four origin countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic) by 2018. Oxfam believes that these assessments will give a fuller picture of Mars cocoa supply chain covering the regions from which it sources. This will enable Mars to develop policies and practices that will reach the most vulnerable women in the supply chain and understand their roles in different cultural contexts. It is important that this assessment focuses on issues relevant to women cocoa farmers and farm workers at family farms and as casual labor, regardless of cooperative membership and that can be extended to countries beyond Cote d’Ivoire.


Nestlé has committed to publish an action plan to address gender inequities in its cocoa supply chain by the end of April 2013.  It will start with a focus on Ivory Coast with the intention to extend it to other countries.  Oxfam welcomes Nestlé’s promise to publish an action plan. It is important that this plan is extended to countries beyond Ivory Coast. It is also important that Nestlé is going to propose specific steps to improve the opportunities and rights of women based on the findings of its assessments. Oxfam expects that Nestle will update its action plan, in particular after it finalizes the assessment in April 2014..  Oxfam and our supporters will make sure to assess the quality of Nestlé’s action plan and will insist on its implementation. 

Mars has committed to develop a plan of action by 1 April 2014, based on the assessment above and they plan to sign onto the UN Women's Empowerment Principles prior to 1st May 2013. Oxfam welcomes the subsequent plan of action by roughly a year from now based on the results of the gender impact assessment. Oxfam will be looking for a plan of action that can increase women’s capacity to be successful cocoa farmers and workers and encourages women’s empowerment throughout Mars’ cocoa supply chain. The specific, short-term date for becoming a signatory to the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles allows for monitoring not only by Oxfam but also by consumers.


Together with committing to an action plan, Nestlé has invited UTZ - a certification organization - and Fairtrade to work together to ensure gender issues taken into account more fully in certification and it has promised to work with sector initiatives (the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative) to mainstream gender into cocoa programmes. Nestlé is also in contact with UN Global Compact on next steps regarding the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, allowing for monitoring not only by Oxfam but also by consumers. Oxfam will make sure to follow up on this and expects that in its action plan of late April, Nestlé will announce it is signing on to these principles.

As well as an action plan Mars committed to engage and advocate toward both its own industry and the public sector to address the many systemic challenges of gender equity. Oxfam welcomes this commitment and thinks that it will be important for Mars to drive the rapid deployment of commonly agreed indicators for industry progress on the issue.

What’s next?

We’re looking forward to working with Mars and Nestle to ensure they keep their promises to women and we will watching closely to make sure that this will be the case.

 But today, as well as being encouraged by this good news from Mars and Nestle we should also turn to Mondelez, the other one of the ‘Big 3’ chocolate companies.  Mondelez controls 15% of the global chocolate market and has yet to act – let’s ask them to use its power to get it right for women.

It’s time for Mondelez to get with the pace and Look, Listen & Act for women cocoa farmers and their families.

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