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Mondelez overhauls women’s rights commitment after criticism

By Oliver Nieburg+

23-Apr-2013

Women small-scale farmers in Africa own just 1% of agricultural land, but make up 60% of the global agricultural workforce. Photo credit:George Osodi - Panos for Oxfam America
Women small-scale farmers in Africa own just 1% of agricultural land, but make up 60% of the global agricultural workforce. Photo credit:George Osodi - Panos for Oxfam America

Mondelez International has followed its peers Nestlé and Mars in making commitments to tackle gender inequality on cocoa farms after coming under fire from Oxfam and consumers.

Early in March, human rights organization Oxfam had called on the three biggest chocolate manufacturers to conduct independent audits after finding female cocoa farmers were often lower paid than men and suffered discrimination in access to training and materials.

Results were published in Oxfam’s supply chain accountability scorecard ‘Behind the Brands’.

Nestlé and Mars promised action last month. See HERE . But Oxfam started a petition against Mondelez after deeming its intital response unsatisfactory. The petition had collected over 110,000 signatures.

Mondelez pledge

Mondelez announced today that it would sign the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles (it is the first of the three chocolate makers to do so) and committed to report on gender rights, extend programs and advocate for industry-wide action.

Judy Beals, campaign manager for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Campaign, said: “The impact of Mondelēz International, Mars and Nestlé’s promises, if kept, will reverberate across cocoa supply chains

“Empowering women cocoa farmers has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people, some of whom are earning less than $2 a day.”

Mondelez's first report on Ghana is due on 1 April 2014 and will be used as a model for other origin countries. Action plans for Mondelez’s top four cocoa origins have been promised by 2018.

Women on cocoa farms

According to the United Nations, women make up over 40% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, but yields for women farmers are 20-30% lower than for men because women have less access to improved seeds, fertilizer and equipment.

The company added that it would step up women's empowerment in its $400m 10-year Cocoa Life program, which launched in November 2012, to promote women's participation in decision-making.

Mondelez initial response

Mondelez’s originally responded  to Oxfam by detailing how it was the world’s largest buyer of Fairtrade Certified cocoa in 2011 and one of the largest buyers of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa  and coffee. “We are surprised that Oxfam does not acknowledge these investments in its report,” it said initially.

Oxfam said the firm was avoiding the issue and was instead “compiling a laundry list of well-known existing projects”.

Mondelez’s sustainability director Jonathan Horrell told this site on 6 March that “gender questions” were assessed as part of the an initial needs assessment in the Cocoa Life program, however, he declined to comment further on Oxfam’s reaction.

 ‘No company too big for its customers’

“This latest commitment shows that no company is too big to listen to its customers. Three of the biggest food giants in the world are changing how they operate because consumers have demanded it,” Beals said

Richard Buino, corporate external communications at Mondelez, told ConfectioneryNews.com:"Since we already have a lot of work in this area, there was a lot to discuss. It was important for Oxfam to be sure that our commitments relate to genuinely new activity."

He said that a report commissioned by Cadbury bfore the Kraft Foods takeover in 2008 highlighted the importance of gender equality in sustainable cocoa production and this report had been used as the foundation of Mondelez's Cocoa Life Program.  

For Mondelez’s full commitment, see HERE .

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