The Rainforest Alliance and Mars Team Up to Make Sustainable Chocolate

April 9, 2009

One of the world's largest chocolate makers, Mars, Incorporated, and the Rainforest Alliance today unwrapped ambitious new goals in their ongoing campaign to help cocoa farmers get on the path toward sustainability. The global company and the NGO, both leaders in sustainable tropical agriculture, agreed to redouble efforts to help thousands of farmers meet holistic social and environmental standards so that their farms could earn Rainforest Alliance certification.

Mars aims to buy enough certified cocoa so that the Galaxy chocolate bar, highly popular in the United Kingdom, can bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ green seal of approval by early 2010. Putting all its cards on the table, the company also has committed to getting its entire cocoa supply certified as sustainably produced by 2020. The Rainforest Alliance accepted the company's challenge to bring enough farms up to code so that 100,000 tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa would be available each year by 2020.

The move is an unprecedented milestone for the cocoa industry, farmers and chocolate lovers.

Cocoa Farmed in the hot and humid lowlands of many tropical countries, cocoa is the main livelihood for millions of farmers. There are an estimated two million cocoa growers in the western Africa nations of Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, which together produce about 80 percent of the world's cocoa supply.

Nearly all cocoa is grown on small, family farms that are vulnerable to disease, inclement weather and price fluctuations. Since farmers manage small plots of about three hectares, the amount of cocoa beans used for Galaxy will require the annual harvest of several thousand farmers.

"Mars' commitment to buying sustainable cocoa is unprecedented in size and scope, and the benefits to farmers, farmworkers, tropical environments and wildlife will be tangible," said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. "This initiative is an example of the tremendous impact global companies can have when they commit to sustainability. I have recently returned from Ghana, where I saw firsthand the problems, the improvements and the possibilities."

The Rainforest Alliance and Mars' staff began sharing ideas and expertise a decade ago. The Rainforest Alliance has been working with Mars in Cote d'Ivoire for two years as part of the Mars Partnership for African Cocoa Communities of Tomorrow (iMPACT) program, a coalition of groups whose goal is to ensure future supplies of cocoa and a responsible approach to its production so that the communities in which it is produced can thrive. Mars also began sourcing coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms for three of their Flavia coffee offerings in 2008.

"We are proud to be putting our principles into action, and share the vision with the Rainforest Alliance for a more sustainable cocoa industry characterized by productive and profitable farms that create vibrant cocoa communities and conserve their natural assets for future generations," said Paul S. Michaels, Mars CEO and president. "Mars is committed to fundamentally changing the way sustainable cocoa farming practices are advanced by aiming to certify all of our cocoa supply by 2020. Mars is very appreciative of the trust Rainforest Alliance invests in our long-term commitment. Together, we strive to improve the whole cocoa supply chain."

The Rainforest Alliance works with cocoa farms of all sizes, and certification ensures that ecosystems and the rights and benefits of workers are protected. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met the environmental, social and economic standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of local conservation organizations that first set the standard for sustainable farming in rainforest areas in the early 1990s. The SAN standards cover ecosystem conservation, worker rights and safety, wildlife protection, water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing, and legal wages and contracts for workers. Some experts worry about the future of cocoa farmers, especially in western Africa, where environmental degradation and declining productivity form a vicious circle. Rainforest Alliance field technicians have found that farmers embrace reforestation efforts, as they quickly see the benefits of recovering their environment. Labor and safe working conditions are the most troubling social issues. By consulting closely and continually with farmers, local NGOs and other institutions, government agencies and researchers, standard-setting experts from the SAN have adapted the guidelines that were developed and tested on thousands of farms in Latin America to the realities of Africa, Indonesia and Asia.

The Rainforest Alliance's partner NGO in Ecuador, Conservación y Desarrollo ("Conservation and Development" in English) began organizing and teaching cocoa farmers more than ten years ago. Ecuador is a leading exporter of exquisite quality cocoa, the beans that give chocolate its notes of spice and fruit. But the farmers in Ecuador also suffer from low productivity, disease and pests that attack the delicate cocoa pods, poorly conceived government programs and variable prices. The certification program helps farmers improve production and quality while controlling costs and conserving the natural resources on which they and the local communities depend. Since 2004, 8,228 cocoa farms on over 234,000 acres (94,763 ha) have achieved Rainforest Alliance certification. Sales of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa reached an estimated $4.5 million in 2007 and jumped to an estimated $16.75 million in 2008. Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farms are located in Cote d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica.

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