Mars Goes Certified

certified cocoa beans.jpgChalk up another victory for sustainable business practices worldwide. Mars, Inc., the world’s largest candy maker, announced today a commitment to purchase 100,000 tons of UTZ Certified cocoa annually by 2020. The creator of M&Ms plans to use only sustainably produced cocoa by that date.
Mars has been feeling pressure to go sustainable in its UK market, where there is more interest in sustainable food than the US. Cadbury, a direct competitor, will have the Fairtrade Certified label on its Dairy Milk Chocolate bar by the end of the summer.

Crazy for Cocoa — Certified Cocoa
Founded in 1997, UTZ Certified provides independent verification of responsibly produced coffee, cocoa, palm oil and tea. Their thirty-one-point code of conduct covers labor practices, environmental standards and the use of agrochemicals.
While UTZ Certified and the better-known Fairtrade Certified have similar ethos, Fairtrade also insists on a “Fairtrade Minimum Price” for crops, something UTZ has been criticized for lacking. Cocoa beans, like coffee beans, often experience dramatic price fluctuations, which can leave small producers in the lurch. UTZ says it focuses on training farmers to be competitive and increase yields. (The two certification organizations consider their missions complementary and have collaborated on a document(PDF) explaining their differences.)
Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa, where there have been frequent allegations of child labor and even child slavery involved in its production. According to an International Labor report, up to 200,000 children were involved in cocoa production in 2005.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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