A conversation with Mondelez International/Cadbury on ethical chocolate

Mondelēz International’s (Producer of Cadbury Products) Commitment to Ethical Sourcing

Following our email communications with Mondelēz International regarding its plans to provide more Fairtrade products to Canadian consumers, as well as public interest shown through petitions signatures and media stories, we had a meeting with two representatives of Mondelēz Canada at our office.

During our discussions, we learned more about Mondelēz International’s Cocoa Life Program, which is key to their ongoing efforts to create sustainability in their cocoa supply chain and address other social issues such as child labour. From our meeting, I took away four key things:(1) securing a sustainable supply of cocoa means addressing the problem of child labour; (2) social issues are inter-related, so addressing poverty and women’s empowerment also creates solutions for child labour; (3) that partnerships are central to Mondelēz International’s activities to address sustainability issues including child labour; (4) they want Canadians to know more about what they are doing but it is a complex story to tell.

1) Mondelēz is one of the largest chocolate companies in the world.  With an increasing demand for chocolate, they need a reliable supply of high quality cocoa. To do that, they have to address both agricultural and social issues in cocoa growing communities, including child labour.  Their efforts to deal with these challenges led to the creation of their Cocoa Life program, operating in Mondelēz International’s six key origins: Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, India, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. Cocoa Life has five pillars:

  1. Farming: helping farmers – men and women – improve yields and earn higher incomes.
  2. Community: enabling cocoa farming families to create the kind of communities they and their children want to live in; including an emphasis on increasing women’s participation and decision making in the community.
  3. Livelihoods: improving business skills and helping to develop additional sources of income to lift people out of poverty.
  4. Youth: reduction of child labour and forced child labour through the creation of Child Labour and Child Slavery response and correction procedures as well as activities to respect and support child rights; and making cocoa farming a more attractive profession for young people.
  5. Environment: – protecting the landscape in which cocoa is grown to maintain ecosystems and farming land for future generations.

2) Partnership is a key tool for addressing child labour and other challenges to sustainability in their cocoa supply, and  they have a strong corporate policy condemning child labour.  In fact, following a year’s work with field experts and Anti-Slavery International, Mondelez International is taking a new approach to identifying and addressing child labour in the cocoa supply chain. By actively seeking out the problem, being transparent about its findings and putting the well-being of children at the heart of their approach, Mondelez hopes to eliminate child labor in cocoa communities. But they can’t tackle the problem alone.

3) To help them implement the Cocoa Life Plan and their corporate policies, they work with partners like World Vision, Voluntary Service Overseas, and CARE in some communities in Ghana. In addition, they are partnering with Harvard University to evaluate the impact of the Cocoa Life Program every three years to ensure its ongoing success and that its delivering accordingly. To ensure that they farmers benefit from their efforts in cocoa communities, they are working with FLOCERT to create and employ a tailor-made version of FLOCERT’s reporting system to verify the quantity of sustainably grown and traded cocoa and to ensure Cocoa Life premium payments are being made to farmer organizations and that farmers are receiving the intended benefits. 

4) Making cocoa supply chains sustainable and ethical is complex, and Canadians are often not exposed to this level of information.  I can understand the challenges that Mondelēz International faces in telling the story of their work. In many ways, Cocoa Life is much like a development program that is addressing complex problems but is hard to boil down into a few sound bites. I was encouraged to hear that they are aware that they need to tell Canadians consumers more about what they are doing to improve the lives of people living in cocoa communities.  We hope to talk further about how WV can help them in this effort.

Sadly, there is no plan to sell a Fair Trade Certified Easter Egg in Canada. But in many ways Mondelez International’s plans are bigger than that. Ultimately, it seems that they are working to make all of their products with ethically sourced cocoa. They admit that their work with Cocoa Life is in its early stages. But they are committed to following through on promises to source ethical.

I think the best we can do to support their efforts is to inform ourselves by going to , letting them know we support their efforts and want to see them reach their goals. Maybe even “putting our money where our mouth is” and opting for their ethical options over other products might show them how much ethical chocolate means to us.  

I was impressed by what I heard about Mondelez’s work in cocoa growing communities. There seems to be a genuine commitment to improvement as well as a desire to be a transparent company that follows through on commitments.  We need all companies to have that attitude and with your help we can encourage them all to get there.


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