The chocolate company warns that "unless more is done to promote sustainability”, the industry as a whole can expect a shortfall of more than one million tonnes of cocoa in just nine years.
Pledging to use 100 per cent certified sustainable chocolate by 2020, Mars said its new cocoa sustainability drive is focused on “technology transfer that puts farmers first; innovations in agricultural science; and rigorous certification standards.”
Last year Mars Chocolate purchased certified cocoa representing about 5 per cent of its total supply.
“This year, we are on track to buy ten per cent of our cocoa from certified sources.
By 2020, our goal is to purchase 100 per cent certified cocoa, and we've committed to buy 100,000 metric tonnes each annually from both UTZ and Rainforest Alliance by that time,” said Andrew Pederson, global chocolate manager – sustainability at Mars Chocolate.
He told ConfectioneryNews.com that while schemes such as UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance have already been great partners in advancing the ways certification can support real progress for farmers, the industry now must:
“Increase its investment in evaluating and improving certification programmes according to common goals that prioritize good outcomes for farmers.
Creating a common set of auditing standards and farm-level intervention will take a much more focused coalition of government, industry and civil society partners, and Mars is very interested in supporting future efforts along these lines.”
Cooperation between standards
Pederson said that Mars has been teaming up with German body GTZ on the Certification Capacity Enhancement project (CCE), which is bidding to promote cooperation between standards, companies and NGOs.
“We have also collaborated with ISEAL [global association for social and environmental standards] to identify potential improvements,” said the Mars representative.
Pederson added that its sustainability drive also includes new Cocoa Development Centers (CDC) in Africa and Asia to give farmers “access to advanced agricultural methods and to cocoa trees that produce more and are more disease resistant.”
And following on from its role in mapping the cocoa genome, it is now engaged in applying the genome to specific issues in cocoa growing regions.
Pederson explained that Mars is involved in breeding projects in South America and Asia: “We expect that [these] will greatly speed up our process for evaluating and distributing new plant types that address common pests like cocoa pod borer.”
Mars comments that industry efforts can help to mitigate climate change by reducing the overall land footprint taken up by cocoa.
“By focusing on increasing farmer productivity and promoting crop diversity, farmers can get much more income out of the same land area,” said Pederson.
He also notes that while the Ivory Coast “has some added challenges,” Mars is absolutely committed to long-term success there, and “the Ivorian government is a key partner for us.”
“Early in 2010, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ivorian government, and we are currently working with their agriculture extension services on a long-term strategy to create sustainable livelihoods for farmers,” added the Mars spokesperson.