UK – Nestle and Mars are among chocolate industry giants on the spotlight over concerns about their ethical standards in the cocoa supply chain in the recently released report by Ethical Consumer.
In the report, out of the 82 companies investigated, only 17 were found to ensure cocoa farmers received a living wage, raising questions about child labour in the production of chocolate, especially given that approximately 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, where child labour is prevalent.
Notably, Mars, Nestlé, and Cadbury’s owner, Mondelēz, were rated poorly and designated as “brands to avoid” by Ethical Consumer.
Despite implementing sustainability schemes, these companies faced criticism for not adequately covering all their cocoa suppliers, leaving some farmers without essential benefits.
The report also scrutinized brands on tax conduct, palm oil use, deforestation, and plastic packaging.
Ethical Consumer recommended brands such as Tony’s Chocolonely, Divine, and Chocolat Madagascar for their commitment to Fairtrade International or Rainforest Alliance certifications, applauding their support for local economies.
Jasmine Owens from Ethical Consumer emphasized the considerable influence consumers have in shaping conditions for West African cocoa farmers, even as ethical brands may be pricier and less accessible.
The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Centre highlighted hazardous child labour among 43% of children in cocoa-growing areas in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
The International Cocoa Initiative stressed the collective responsibility of the cocoa industry, governments, civil society organizations, and cocoa-consuming countries in ending child labour, emphasizing the need for access to quality education and healthcare for affected communities.
Major chocolate companies, including Nestlé and Ferrero, defended their sustainability efforts. Nestlé aims to source all its chocolate through the Cocoa Life program by 2025.
Mars, while not responding directly, referred to its Cocoa for Generations strategy, a billion-dollar, 10-year initiative focusing on farmers’ welfare and income.
Ferrero highlighted its commitment to sourcing cocoa through Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade Foundation, and Cocoa Horizons, along with efforts to improve livelihoods and support environmental sustainability.
The report comes amid increasing concerns about inequality in the chocolate industry, pushing for more transparent and ethical practices to ensure a sustainable and fair cocoa supply chain.
Nestlé Unveils US$1.2 Billion Investment Plan in Brazil
Meanwhile, Swiss multinational Nestlé has disclosed plans to invest 6 billion reais (US$1.2 billion) in food and drink production in Brazil.
The investments, scheduled between 2023 and 2025, aim to fuel business growth, transform portfolios, and enhance operational efficiency in chocolate, coffee, pet food, and nutrition categories.
The funds will also contribute to expanding production capacity, deploying new processing equipment, and driving innovation in products and packaging.
However, the Swiss multinational hasn’t specified the distribution of funds across business areas or the number of jobs created.
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