Mars initial response to Oxfam’s “Behind the Brands” Briefing Paper
“Providing affordable and nutritious food for a growing global population is one of the great challenges of our time. As one of the world’s leading food companies, Mars plays an important role in this effort and we are proud of the steps we have taken in this area. Mars takes a comprehensive approach to this issue, with a strong focus on the entire farming community specifically in the area of cocoa sustainability. Our leadership has had a positive impact on the women, children and families of smallholder farms. Oxfam highlights important issues in their report and we look forward to working with them to address these critical issues.
Mars Response: Oxfam’s Recommendation’s on Cocoa Supply Chain
We appreciate Oxfam’s focus on the serious issues cocoa farmers and their families face, and we recognize the important role women will play in addressing these problems. Inclusive community development is a fundamental pillar of our Vision for Change initiative in Côte d’Ivoire, and we have been encouraged to see many women step up to lead to lead their communities in organizing local development projects as well as to start new businesses to provide a higher quality of life to their families and neighbors. We look forward to strengthening our approach involving women in the community development process and continuing to ensure that women in cocoa communities are fully empowered to participate equally alongside the many other diverse groups in West African society.
For more information, please see our blog post: http://cocoasustainability.com/2013/02/the-role-of-women-in-making-cocoa-sustainable.
We look forward to talking with you soon on next steps.
Oxfam welcomes the steps that Mars has taken to do right by small-scale farmers, including its commitment to source 100% certified cocoa by 2020. However, coming in at 5th out of 10 companies with a poor overall score of just 30% in our scorecard is not impressive, and it should give Mars serious concern.
Its individual projects to invest in smallholder farmers must be accompanied by more comprehensive and transparent policies, extending to land, water and women’s rights. Mars must take major strides to beat out competitors in this race to the top. Oxfam is calling on Mars and the other nine food and beverage giants to make commitments and actions that are clearly in their interest to strengthen the sustainability of their entire supply chains.
We welcome Mars’s recognition that gender inequality is a serious issue and that its approach needs to be strengthened. But recognizing the issue is not enough. Mars gets the lowest possible score for its policies on women, which means those policies are simply unfit for modern purpose and Mars needs to take urgent action to improve them. Oxfam has called on Mars to conduct an official assessment of its impact on women cocoa farmers and to announce a plan of action to address gender inequality in its supply chains. Mars has yet to step up.
Mars, along with other companies sourcing cocoa, has undertaken individual projects and initiatives to increase the capacity of smallholder farmers to achieve better yields. These projects are a good first step, but they are piecemeal, and they do not specifically address gender inequality. Oxfam’s campaign will continue until Mars announces concrete comprehensive commitments to address gender inequality in its cocoa supply chain.