Protecting Children Action Plan
At Mars, cocoa is at the heart of our company’s long heritage and an integral ingredient in our beloved chocolate products. We know a sustainable cocoa sector is essential to ensure we can continue to provide chocolate for future generations of chocolate lovers in a manner that protects human rights in cocoa farming communities. For decades, we have worked in collaboration with others toward achieving sustainable cocoa production and a cocoa supply chain where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, human rights are respected, and the environment is protected. However, progress has been slow, and we believe that we and others must significantly step-up our efforts to drive the change that is needed. That’s why we launched our Cocoa for Generations strategy in 2018. Backed by an investment of billion over 10 years (2018-2028), our efforts are focused on protecting children, preserving forests and improving farmer income across our cocoa supply chain while also strengthening the viability of the cocoa supply in the future by helping farmers grow more cocoa on less land, diversifying their crops and income, and empowering women and communities.
Our Strategic Approach to Protecting Children in Cocoa Farming Communities
Protecting children and empowering women and communities are pivotal to a thriving cocoa supply chain. The countries where most cocoa is sourced often face multiple economic and social challenges, such as extreme poverty, insufficient law enforcement, a lack of basic infrastructure such as clean water, roads, healthcare and schools, and poor access to information, agronomic inputs, or finance for farmers. In addition, certain social norms may hamper the empowerment of women and communities, and limit standards of living in cocoa growing households. These root causes can contribute to adverse human rights impacts.
Our Strategic Approach to Protecting Children in Cocoa Farming Communities sets out how we identify, prevent and mitigate human rights issues - with a focus on child and forced labor in our extended cocoa supply chain – through implementing human rights due diligence processes as well as community-based investments that help tackle the root causes of these complex issues. In all this work, we aim to put cocoa farmers and communities at the center of our efforts.
Our approach comprises four main levers, designed to be mutually reinforcing:
1. Robust Child and Forced Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems: Our first priority is to ensure our suppliers have in place robust child and forced labor monitoring and remediation systems designed to identify, prevent and seek to remediate cases of child labor and forced labor as appropriate. Data from ICI has shown that, following three years of implementation, Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) have the potential to reduce by 50% the risk of child labor among children covered by the CLMRS. Expanding CLMRS coverage in our West African origins is our focus in the near-term. The balance of the reductions will require community-based investments that help tackle root causes, including investments in Women’s Social and Economic Empowerment, Increases Access to Quality Education, and Increasing Income. We will seek to ensure 100% of at-risk families in our cocoa supply chains are covered by Robust Child and Forced Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems by 2025. We anticipate that in order to achieve our Cocoa for Generation ambition by 2025, at least 180,000 cocoa farming households will need to be reached with an estimated 540,000 children in our four West African origins (Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Nigeria). We will also take action in other origin countries as appropriate.
2. Women’s Social and Economic Empowerment: The well-being of women in cocoa communities is a critical link to family food security and nutrition, education, and health and drives the long-term prospects for a future of educated cocoa farmers. Together with CARE International, we have developed a unique Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) model that includes a number of essential building blocks beyond the foundational savings and loans activity. Research conducted in VSLA communities supported by Mars shows that they increase women’s social and economic empowerment and more than double women’s average savings when they are supported over a three-year period. In 2020, encouraged by the Women for Change model and its proven results, we committed an additional $10M to further expand this unique model with CARE to reach more than 60,000 members by 2025. In September 2022, we exceeded our target reaching more than 77.000 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) members (more than 75% are women) across Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Women and girls' empowerment is a dynamic and transformative process of change, which requires addressing gender inequalities and disempowerment across multiple dimensions; this also presents a variety of entry points for the transformation needed to reshape the future of cocoa. To address these challenges, we have partnered with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) to conduct qualitative research to understand and explain behaviors, experiences, and attitudes in relation to the inequality and disempowerment that women face in their daily lives in cocoa growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia. It was concluded that the longer-term, often overlooked and neglected “mainstreaming” work of changing mindsets and social norms is essential if we want to make meaningful progress in lowering barriers to equality, reducing poverty, and unlocking the full potential of women and girls. Mars is taking action by embedding a gender transformative lens into its cocoa policies, strategies, partnerships and programs linked to human rights, the environment, and farmer income. The detailed findings have been described in the following two reports:
3. Increasing Access to Quality Education and Development Opportunities for Children: Education access and quality are critical components of driving better long-term futures for children in cocoa-growing communities. Since 2017, we have worked with the Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC) program funded by the Jacobs, Bernard van Leer and UBS Optimus Foundations, through the implementation of a number of pilots. This work has given us insights into the powerful linkages between robust monitoring systems, women’s empowerment and education interventions. In the long term, investing in education can have a positive circular effect: educated children can earn higher incomes and contribute more to the development of their own children, households and communities. We will continue to learn from our work with Jacobs Foundation and other expert education organizations to develop additional programs and interventions where relevant, particularly in other countries.
In 2020, in collaboration with a number of key industry players and stakeholders from the cocoa industry, we committed .3M to support the Jacobs Foundation’s creation of two new funding facilities aimed at promoting quality education and early childhood development and nutrition, in line with the Côte d’Ivoire’s government strategic objectives in the fight against child labor.
4. Increasing Income: At Mars, we believe everyone working within our extended supply chains should earn sufficient income to maintain a decent standard of living. Many smallholder farms are family businesses and, like Mars as a family-owned business, we want those farming businesses to be successful for generations to come. Increasing their income is incredibly complex, and it is only one aspect of the multi-dimensional poverty small holder farmers are facing. No single player can solve poverty alone but as a company we can play a significant role, using an evidence-based and principles-led approach alongside other critical actors, including governments, suppliers, supply chain partners, the Farmer Income Lab and the farmers themselves, in achieving this ambition.
We see great opportunity for a real change and have embarked on a holistic, development journey to achieve and sustain a living income for cocoa growing communities.
With the launch of two groundbreaking programs, designed in consultation with cocoa farmers and a network of leading organizations — including Fairtrade, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Institute for Development Impact (I4DI), and ECOOKIM, a Fairtrade Cooperatives Union that Mars has sourced from for several years — we aim to support 14,000 smallholder farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia on a path to a sustainable living income by 2030.
The effort seeks to address challenges created by market failures and climate change by bundling interventions around credit and financial inclusion, agroforestry and income diversification, helping to create the conditions in which families with small cocoa farms can lift themselves out of poverty.
Read more on the two groundbreaking, farmer-first programs.
Collaborations & Progress
Collaboration is critical to making progress in addressing the complex and systemic issues prevalent in the cocoa supply chains we rely on. We are keen to partner and learn for increased impact, and we strongly believe that a holistic approach has higher chances of success. That is why we are committed to working with governments, suppliers, civil society, farmers and communities to advance our shared goals and we will continue collaborating with experts including CARE International, The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Jacobs Foundation, The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Oxfam and Verité.
Through these collaborative efforts, we will continue to work to advance respect for human rights, while ensuring our own Protecting Children Action Plan focuses on what we believe are the most salient issues and prioritizes the most vulnerable people in the supply chain.
We will share the challenges and lessons-learned through our work, as there are still few proven models and approaches, and we want to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about what works. Our progress toward achieving our goals will be reflected annually in our Cocoa for Generations report.
The Protecting Children Action Plan is complemented by our Cocoa and Forests Approach to prevent deforestation throughout our cocoa supply chain.
Download our Protecting Children Action Plan.
For the latest update on our work to advance respect for human rights, we invite you to read our Respecting Human Rights in the Cocoa Supply Chain Report. The report features the progress we’ve made, what we are learning and where more effort and collaboration is needed to achieve our 2025 human rights goals.