Cocoa – Sustainability | Mars, Incorporated


As part of our Sustainable in a Generation plan, our ambition is to ensure that within our extended supply chains everyone has the opportunity to thrive, human rights are respected and the environment is protected. 

The cocoa supply chain of today does not deliver on these ambitions – it is broken, and current interventions are not enough to fix it. It’s time to build a new model for the cocoa supply chain. Cocoa for Generations, which places the interest of the smallholder farmer at its center, is how Mars intends to step-change efforts, lead the way and invite the cocoa sector to partner with us in a new approach to increase farmer income, help to safeguard children and forests today, and creates a pathway for cocoa farmers their families, and communities to thrive.

Last year, we launched our Sustainable in a Generation Plan committing our global business to unlock systemic changes that benefit people and the planet. This plan has led us to fundamentally rethink our cocoa sustainability strategy.

Over the years, we’ve made progress in addressing social and environmental challenges in the cocoa sector, reaching nearly 180,000 farmers with certification and improving average yields on participating farms.


But we’re impatient with the pace of our progress, and of the sector overall. Despite progress, farmers haven’t experienced improvements in their incomes or living conditions at an adequate pace. Children continue to labor in hazardous conditions, with significant gaps in access to safe, high-quality schooling. Deforestation continues in the cocoa supply chain with farming occurring in protected forest areas. Business and government must think and act differently if cocoa farming families are to thrive in the future.

Cocoa for Generations is our contribution. We commit to two pillars of work, Responsible Cocoa Today and Sustainable Cocoa Tomorrow, and invite others to join us in the development of effective, scalable and innovative solutions.



The first pillar of Cocoa for Generations is Responsible Cocoa Today. It aims to ensure 100 percent of our cocoa is responsibly sourced globally and is traceable by 2025.

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This pillar goes beyond the current level of certification standards and practices and commits us to action across three focus areas that put cocoa farmers, communities and the environment at the center of our efforts:


Protect children:

Too many children work in hazardous conditions in the cocoa sector. Early indications suggest that child labor monitoring and remediation programs (CLMRS) have the potential to halve the rate of hazardous child labor among participating families. We will work with our suppliers and certifiers to enhance CLMRS deployed in our Responsible Cocoa supply chain and continue to help improve education in cocoa-growing communities with a focus on access to and quality schools. It is crucial that children in cocoa communities have a safe alternative to work and that they have the opportunity to thrive.


Preserve forests:

We expect farms supplying our cocoa that are in our Responsible Cocoa program to provide satellite based GPS locations so that we have assurances that cocoa does not come from protected forest areas. In line with our commitments in the Cocoa and Forest Initiatives Framework for Action, we will share our plan publicly and engage with governments and industry as we all do our part to make progress on this complex issue.


Improve farmer income:

Our aim is to increase the income farmers generate from their cocoa. A foundational first step we will take is to work with partners to ensure that the model for premiums we pay for responsible cocoa is overhauled to ensure that farmers receive a higher share of the premium. In partnerships with others, we will also explore and encourage further sector-wide changes and partnerships that can bring about increased income for farmers.

While this new approach is implemented, Mars will maintain its current certified cocoa levels with Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance and work with both organizations to strengthen implementation to raise the bar across the cocoa sector. Mars applauds both certification organizations’ efforts to organize individual farmers into groups and cooperatives, providing training and implementation management systems in certified farmer groups, and is committed to collaborate with them to improve audit controls, child labor monitoring, traceability and premiums paid to farmers. As further measurable efforts are made, Mars will continue transitioning its cocoa volumes to these new and stronger approaches.

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The second pillar, Sustainable Cocoa Tomorrow, will deploy at scale the initiatives we believe are most likely to accelerate the modernization of the cocoa sector. Our ambition is to demonstrate that a step-change in farmer income and livelihoods is possible and by doing so we hope to show the path for others so together we transform the whole sector.

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In close partnership with an initial group of 75,000 cocoa farming families and our suppliers, we will test how we can increase productivity, income, resilience and overall sustainability. We will work with others to identify opportunities to expand interventions involving farming families in and will bring that partnership to the next level by:

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  • Supporting long term investment with Farm Development Plans: Farm Development Plans are support packages that are tailored to each farming household. We believe they have the potential to double cocoa yields per hectare, and to provide farmers with the opportunity to access financing.
  • Improve household income with diversified farming, agroforestry and other alternatives: We will continue to advocate the benefits of diversified farming and good agroforestry models from, for example, other cash, timber and food crops, livestock and non-farm income.
  • Supporting communities by empowering women through micro-financing: We will expand village savings & loan programs for men and women in their cocoa communities to strengthen financial literacy, household savings and women income generating activities.
  • Changing the way we buy to benefit farmers: We will shift our cocoa covered by the Responsible Cocoa program from short-term transactions to longer-term relationships with cocoa suppliers and farmers. We hope this will improve the predictability and efficiency of our investments and drive more benefit for cocoa farmers and their communities.

Sharing Progress
As we advance our efforts across these two pillars, we will share our progress, challenges and lessons learned. We will actively engage and work with industry, governments and other civil-society partners to seek shared solutions and mutually-beneficial results for cocoa farming families. We will continue to collaborate pre-competitively with our peers and with suppliers to accelerate shared learning via industry forums including the World Cocoa Foundation and their CocoaAction platform and the International Cocoa Initiative.

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Cacao farmers produce just 10 percent of the output they could achieve under perfect conditions with best practices. By contrast, corn production has reached 60 percent of its theoretical yield. Typically funded by governments, agricultural agencies or universities, research into cacao cultivation has long been under-resourced, receiving far too little research or funding. Mars believes its research efforts can help boost the productivity of the farmers we depend on by further encouraging greater funding into cacao research.

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Our work is led by a network of Mars research farms, which includes:

  • The Mars Center for Cocoa Science in Bahia, Brazil:
    Opened in 1982, the center is a hub for world-class science and collaboration and leads our work on cocoa breeding, agroforestry systems, biodiversity-rich environments and land rehabilitation.
  • Hacienda La Chola in Guayaquil, Ecuador:
    As one of the world’s leading research farms for cocoa yields and farm management practices, Hacienda La Chola enables Mars to scale-up our plant science research and test learnings.
  • Mars Symbioscience in Sulawesi, Indonesia:
    Mars started its journey in Indonesia in 1996 with the establishment of the first foreign cocoa processing factory in Makassar, Sulawesi. The business and factory were expanded in 2012 and it is now home to more than 300 associates. Mars also has two Cacao Research Centers in Sulawesi where they work on improving the quality and productivity of cocoa in Indonesia by focusing on the breeding of superior clones, integrated pest management, soil management and diversified farming systems.

    Since 2013, Mars has trained 120 Cocoa Doctors directly through our network of four Cocoa Development Centres in South Sulawesi. These entrepreneurs provide advice and coaching to 12,000 farmers directly in their villages. Mars also actively works with eight vocational schools and has established a cocoa curriculum to encourage young people to become involved in cocoa farming and businesses.

One of our proudest accomplishments is our collaboration with IBM and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Center, during which we unraveled the sequencing of cocoa genomes. Since then, scientists worldwide have used that work to develop more resilient and higher yielding cocoa crops.

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