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Are women from Mars?

Posted by Conor Costello Global Campaigner

6th Mar 2013

Comfort Adeniyi, a cocoa farmer, on her farm in Ayetoro-Ijesa in southwest Nigeria. Photo: George Osodi/Panos for Oxfam America

Our Behind The Brands campaign launch kicked off with a call for Mars, Mondelez International and Nestlé to stop ignoring the women who are working in their cocoa supply chains. Between them, these three companies net more than $45 billion a year in confectionery sales. But throughout their cocoa supply chains - from growers to pickers - women are getting a raw deal.

More than 7,000 people have already taken the action - people who love the chocolate these companies produce, but hate the way they put women in their cocoa supply chains last. So thank you!

The action sparked an immediate response from Mars, via a blog post, describing their Sustainable Cocoa Initiative.

"… the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative is designed to work with these communities to help ease social hurdles like poverty, lack of education, and lack of opportunity by addressing the core challenges that farmers face. We recognize the important role women will play in addressing these problems and in moving their communities forward."

Nestlé welcomed their position at the top of our Behind the Brands scorecard and referred to their work with farmers: 

"By working cooperatively with more than 600,000 farmers that provide our raw materials, we are in a unique position to make a real impact."

Mondelez's response included highlighting their Cocoa Life initiative:

"Since October, we've committed $600 million over 10 years through our Cocoa Life and Coffee Made Happy initiatives to build sustainable supplies and thriving communities to benefit millions of people in the developing world."

Fundamental change needed

The truth is, we know that all three of these companies have projects that seek to help farmers.  We also know that these projects have in some cases reached out successfully to women farmers and workers. But the projects the companies tout are piecemeal at best. What's needed are fundamental changes to the policies that actually govern the way these companies do business.

Together Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé purchase nearly one third of the world's harvested cocoa. They have the power to influence suppliers, governments, and certification bodies and they can influence policy shifts and practices in the sector.

None of the three companies get good scores for their policies on women in our Behind the Brands scorecard, and Mars and Mondelez both get the lowest possible score, which means their policies on women are simply unfit for modern purpose.

Oxfam's Behind the Brands campaign sets out three clear steps for Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé to comprehensively tackle the unfair treatment of women in their cocoa supply chains.

The three companies have shown that they're willing to make commitments on important issues such as sourcing certified cocoa. It's now time for these chocolate giants to show the same leadership on womens' rights.

Read more

Blog post written by Conor Costello

Global Campaigner

More by Conor Costello

Conor Costello