Self-regulation on cocoa child trafficking inadequate: NGO points finger at Mondelēz

NGO pushes Mondelēz for a public deadline to certify its entire cocoa supply to combat child trafficking. Photo Credit: Make Chocolate Fair

NGO STOP THE TRAFFIK has accused Mondelēz International of lagging behind its rivals by attempting to self-regulate child trafficking in the cocoa sector.

It has begun an online petition in the run up to Easter that has already amassed over 4,000 signatures urging the snacks giant to commit to a public deadline to source all its cocoa from third party certified sources.

Mondelēz said it had pledged $400m to its sustainability program Cocoa Life over the next ten years, was one of the biggest buyers of third party certified cocoa and had developed a Child Labor policy with Anti-slavery International.

‘Lagging behind other major companies’

“We recognize the commitments made by Mondelēz through their Cocoa Life initiative, however this particular Easter action is focused on the key step for a chocolate company to make a public deadline to certify their entire chocolate range,” Kate Dangerfield, global campaigns and communications coordinator at STOP THE TRAFFIK told ConfectioneryNews.

“On this particular issue we do feel that Mondelēz is lagging behind other major companies such as Mars, Ferrero and Hershey who have committed to 100% certification by 2020,” said Dangerfield.

Mondelēz rivals Ferrero, Hershey and Mars have all committed to sourcing only third party certified cocoa from organizations such as Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance, which includes third party auditing to stamp out unlawful child labor.

Third-party certified volumes

We asked Mondelēz how much third party certified cocoa it was purchasing and what percentage of its supply was covered by its own Cocoa Life program. Michael Mitchell, senior director, corporate external communications at Mondelēz, said the firm’s goal was to be 100% sustainably sourced through Cocoa Life and third-party certification, but he mentioned no deadline and refused to communicate current levels.

Mitchell said that Mondelēz was the largest buyer of Fairtrade cocoa one of the largest buyers of Rainforest Alliance cocoa. Projections from 2010 data from the Tropical Commodity Coalition estimated that around 11.4% of Mondelēz’s predecessor company Kraft Foods’ 440,000 MT cocoa volume would be certified by 2012.

Dangerfield said: “We suspect Mondelēz is purchasing significant amounts of certified cocoa. However, they are not taking the simple step of putting a logo on their products. Why? Consumers shouldn’t have to read their Cocoa Life Initiative to know.”

“…The Fairtrade, UTZ and Rainforest Alliance logos provide this visible symbol. Until consumers see this visible sign, it is very difficult for them to be able to make an ethical choice at the point of sale,” she said.

Nestlé also sets no deadline

Like Mondelēz, Nestlé has not committed to a public deadline to certify its entire cocoa supply, but has announced its own sustainability initiative The Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which when it launched in 2012 mainly covered just 15% of the firm’s cocoa supplies. 

Dangerfield said: “Although Nestlé have not yet agreed to certifying their whole cocoa range, they have already certified their entire product range in certain countries. They also have a relationship with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) which undertakes independent audits on a regular basis. Mondelēz have not told us what is in place of certification. We are looking for third party independent auditing and they have not revealed how they will do this.”

Last year, Mondelēz worked in collaboration with Anti-slavery International (ASI) to produce a five-pronged Child Labor Guidance Document that pledged the snacks firm would be pro-active, transparent, local, adaptable and collaborative on child labor.

“We don’t know the nature of Mondelēz’s relationship with ASI,” said Dangerfield. “Although they are a highly credible organization – is there independence in their relationship (as there is between Nestlé and the FLA) which means ASI can publish their findings publicly without pre-emptive critique and editing by Mondelēz?” asked Dangerfield.

Steps for all chocolate companies

STOP THE TRAFFIK is encouraging all chocolate companies to certify at least one chocolate product or range. It then urges companies to set a public deadline to certify their entire range of cocoa, before finally 100% is certified.

The organization is also pushing for annually on how money is spent to combat child trafficking for companies own sustainability programs. It also urges these programs to provide farmers a fair living income be audited by a third party.

Dangerfield said: “The Cocoa life initiative is very light with timelines and targets. We are unable to assess progress without this information.”

Mitchell said that child labor and net incomes from cocoa were tracked key performance indicators (KPIs) in the Cocoa Life program. “As with all our KPIs, they will be externally verified and communicated,” he said, but gave no further details. The Mondelēz man added that an update on the firm’s goal to be 100% sustainably sourced would be provided later this year as part the firm’s Call for Well-being annual progress reporting.

What does Cocoa Life pay farmers?

Fairtrade International guarantees a minimum price and a $200 premium per metric ton (MT) to farmers for certified cocoa, while UTZ Certified teaches farmers business skills to negotiate and in 2012 averaged a €112 per MT premium.

We asked Mondelēz what prices and premiums it paid to farmers in its Cocoa Life Program, but the firm said: ”The price we pay for cocoa is competitively sensitive.”

Dangerfield said: “The chocolate industry has made lots of promises they have not delivered on and we do not believe self-regulation in relation to human trafficking and child labor is adequate.”

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