Creating a sustainable cocoa sector that can meet the chocolate industry's long-term demand for cocoa, the essential raw material for chocolate, while providing economic opportunities to cocoa farmers will require billions of dollars in agricultural investments across research, third-party certification and technology transfer to farmers, according to Mars, Inc., one of the world's leading chocolate manufacturers.
Although many groups and individual companies have made singular investments towards a more sustainable sector, to benefit a significant portion of the world's five to six million cocoa farmers, Mars believes the industry must work together even more closely to scale up positive impacts for farmers and achieve higher yields without compromising limited natural resources.
Cocoa sustainability is a large-scale issue that needs large-scale effort and investment
Announcing that it invested $30 million in cocoa sustainability efforts in 2011, after spending more than $20 million annually in the previous two years, Mars is calling for an expansion of previous, smaller scale programs and a renewed focus on farmer benefit as the industry's chief priority. Mars will likely match 2011's investment each year during the next decade.
Earlier this year, the company announced that it had met its 2011 goal of purchasing 10 percent of its total cocoa supply as certified sustainable, and in 2012 it will exceed its original target of 20 percent, making it the largest user of certified cocoa in the world. Based on current buying arrangements, Mars projects that this will be nearly 90,000 metric tons of certified cocoa this year.
Mars is calling upon the sector to collaborate for the common good
"We believe that the best approach to cocoa sustainability is to partner with our industry peers, governments, certification organizations and NGOs for the common good," said Barry Parkin, Mars Global chocolate procurement and sustainability head, in a prepared statement. "The billions of dollars of investment needed requires the large global manufacturers to work together to make this happen at meaningful scale. We can see that the industry is taking this challenge very seriously, as there is a lot of good work happening, but we strongly believe that all of these efforts can be combined as part of a sector-wide effort to achieve the results we all want to see."
The announcement coincides with the publication of Mars' second annual Principles in Action summary, which details the company's approach to business and Mar's commitment to put its Five Principles into action to make a difference to people and the planet through their performance. Mars remains a private, family-owned business dedicated to the objective first expressed by Forrest E. Mars, Sr. in 1947 – to 'create a mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders.'
This objective was evident in 2009 when the business pledged to purchase 100 percent of its supply from certified sustainable cocoa sources by 2020. Mars estimates that demand for cocoa will outstrip supply by one million metric tons by that date, and therefore is making this direct investment in research, technology transfer to farmers, and certification over the next decade to address this industry challenge.
"Revitalizing the cocoa sector for the world's five to six million cocoa farmers will likely require billions of dollars of investment over the next 10 years – everybody in the industry will have to do their part," said Andrew Harner, Mars' global cocoa vice president. "Reaching farmers at scale requires significant financial investment, innovative programs, and industry cooperation. For instance, Mars' Vision for Change initiative will help farmers in Côte d'Ivoire learn updated agricultural methods to strengthen their communities and to increase their productivity, which, in turn, will enhance their economic opportunities. The program is also pre-competitive, which means that the entire industry can benefit from the efforts we are making there. We are eager and willing to work with others in the industry who are pursuing sustainability initiatives."