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Mars looks to help women in the cocoa fields

Chocolate maker sets series of short-, medium- and long-term goals to help women in response to Oxfam America campaign

In a Dove Chocolates ad that originally aired in 2010, women are shown dealing with a series of life’s daily stresses — from a run in their nylons to waxing — while a voice-over urges them to cut themselves some slack.

Another woman chimes in, “Because although we’re only human, that’s more than enough.”

mars cocoa clinic
Women learn about cocoa pods at a clinic held by Mars in Indonesia. Photo provided by Mars. 


The spot is empowering. And now, Mars Chocolates, the makers of Dove, are taking their mission of empowering women to the next level and a new destination — the cocoa fields.

The largest chocolate maker is North America working on a series of short-, medium- and long-term goals for helping women both fully contribute to and benefit from cocoa production in response to a campaign by Oxfam America.


“Mars Chocolate knows firsthand how important women are to creating a better quality of life for the cocoa communities we work in,” says Barry Parkin, Mars Global Chocolate Procurement and Sustainability Head. “We’ve worked with women leaders in Soubré, as part of our Vision for Change program, and elsewhere. So it makes sense for us to be a part of an intentional approach to empowering women, to working with the industry to develop commitments to helping women, and to report on that progress. This is a critical part of achieving our goal of sustainability for cocoa.”

In the short term, Mars has committed to completing its assessment of the condition of female cocoa farmers in its Vision for Change program  in Côte d’Ivoire by the end of this year. By April 1, 2014, Mars Chocolate will develop and publish a plan of action based on the assessment to ensure the Vision for Change program adequately addresses gender equity.

Mars Chocolate also recently funded six economic development projects within the Vision for Change program to train women in developing local enterprises in areas such as animal rearing and crop production.

The company will also sign the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles before May 1, 2013.

Through 2014, Mars will also help develop a sector-wide assessment of gender equity by examining existing third party data on gender in the global cocoa sector and by using this review to identify knowledge gaps. The information can then be used by the global cocoa sector.  

By January 1, 2015, Mars Chocolate will use this review to advocate for and support a sector level review of gender equity in cocoa production through selected sector-wide organizations.

Additionally, the company will support a sector level plan of action to address gender equity concerns.

With regard to transparency, Mars Chocolate will also begin regularly reporting on the condition of women in cocoa production in its top four cocoa origin countries by 2018. The company will establish a corresponding plan of action in these origin countries as well.

“We applaud Mars’ leadership in making these initial commitments,” says Alison Woodhead, campaign manager for Oxfam's Behind the Brands campaign. “Companies need to understand and disclose the condition of women producers in their supply chains as a first step toward addressing inequities and improving livelihoods. We look forward to seeing Mars turn this pledge into concrete action.”

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