Oxfam food company campaign delivers win for women cocoa farmers

Mars, Nestlé commit to steps to address inequality for women cocoa farmers.

March 26, 2013

After more than 60,000 people signed petitions and took action to urge chocolate companies to do the right thing for women cocoa farmers, Mars and Nestlé have today made commitments to begin to tackle the inequality, hunger and poverty faced by women in their cocoa supply chains. Mondelez International, which controls 15% of the global chocolate market, has yet to follow suit in spite of consumer pressure.
“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 Nestlé 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.
“For too long women have come last in food and beverage company supply chains. Gender discrimination is a major cause of global hunger, poverty and inequality.  Consumers are speaking up to say they care about how companies impact the most vulnerable and today Mars and Nestlé have shown they are listening.”
Oxfam welcomes Mars and Nestlé’s commitment to:

  1. Conduct impact assessments on women in their cocoa supply chains in order to understand and show how women are faring. Both companies will begin by conducting impact assessment in Cote d’Ivoire, the highest cocoa producing country within the next year but have committed to conducting assessments in the rest of their supply chain in the years following. Impact assessments will be conducted by third party organizations.
  2. Put in place a specific action plan within a year’s time that will address issues raised by the assessments and lead to the improvement of poor conditions. Oxfam expects that these action plans will deliver better capacity towards a sustainable livelihood to women farmers and workers, along with stronger corporate policies and practices that encourage women’s empowerment throughout their cocoa supply chain.
  3. Work to sign onto the UN Women's Empowerment Principles. The principles demonstrate the companies’ commitment at the CEO level to the empowerment of women across their entire operations by among other things being willing to measure and publicly report on gender equity.
  4. Engage with other powerful actors in the cocoa industry to develop sector-wide programs to address gender inequality. Both Mars and Nestlé will work with industry sector organizations like the World Cocoa Foundation.

Specifics on the two companies’ commitments can be seen here:

“We applaud Mars and Nestlé’s leadership in making these commitments,” said Woodhead. “But only actions can create real and lasting change. We will continue to hold both companies to account and expect them to keep their promises.
“We now call on Mondelez to address their impacts on hunger and poverty. Women in Mondelez’s supply chain continue to be paid less than men, face discrimination and unfair conditions.  Executives at the company should ask themselves if they are truly doing enough. Are they willing to continue with business as usual as these conditions persist? Consumers and investors will apply greater pressure if Mondelez continues to stand back and let their competitors lead the way.”

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For further information:

Juliet O'Neill
Oxfam Canada media contact


Notes to editors:

  1. Oxfam’s petition targeting Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé is available at www.behindthebrands.org/actnow
  2. Oxfam’s investigation into inequality for women in cocoa supply chains is available at www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/equality-for-women-starts-with-chocolate-mb-260213.pdf
  3. Oxfam’s Behind the Brands ranking of food and beverage companies is available at www.behindthebrands.org