The story broke on 16th November 2016 announced as a new partnership between Cadbury and The Fairtrade Foundation. Is this a good news ‘new partnership’ or has Cadbury dropped Fairtrade and are trying to get Fairtrade credibility regardless? Also what do other people and the media say is happening. Read on...
All Meaningful Chocolate products are Fairtrade. This means we buy Fairtrade Chocolate. We are also registered internationally as a Fairtrade Company. These two things mean we can use the Fairtrade Mark on all of our products. But you can’t just put the Fairtrade Mark on boxes or packs. There are very strict guidelines about what you can say, where the mark goes, how near to the edge of the box it can go. This is understandable as the Fairtrade Mark tells customers that the goods are Fairtrade so it has to be clear.
The chocolate industry is worth £120,000,000,000. But big businesses have spent decades resisting Fairtrade. They have resisted or used other schemes because Fairtrade is the gold standard of ethical schemes and involves giving up more profit than cheaper alternatives such as Rain Forest Alliance.
The Fairtrade system checks the supply chain. Fairtrade certified growers receive a fair price for their crops along with a cash bonus known as the Fairtrade Premium. This Premium can be spent on building schools, hospitals or providing fresh water. The Fairtrade Premium adds up. Cadbury pays millions in Fairtrade Premiums to farmer cooperatives every year. But not for much longer.
In 2009 Cadbury announced that the Chocolate used in Dairy Milk and its drinking chocolate was to be Fairtrade certified. It was described at the time as a ‘ground-breaking move’. Cadbury Chief Executive, Todd Stitzer, said ‘By working together, the Fairtrade Foundation and Cadbury believe we can get more people in the UK to buy Fairtrade products and achieve more for this cause than we ever could individually.’ Then Kraft bought Cadbury. Five years later Cadbury has decided it wants to use its own scheme and no longer use Fairtrade certified ingredients. Will it be as good as Fairtrade? Those who run Fairtrade hope so. Cadbury tells us yes. But I have my doubts given the history of corporate attitudes to Fairtrade.
The first clue to what is about to happen is that Cadbury has designed a new ‘Cocoa Life’ logo for the front of its packs, but they still want to have the Fairtrade logo on the back of their bars even though there are no Fairtrade ingredients in them. I suppose it gives Fairtrade credibility regardless. It seems to be a fudge.
In 2014, after 20 years of warnings about low payments to growers, just 1.2% of global cocoa sales and less than 1% of global sugar sales were Fairtrade certified. This has led to a crisis in the chocolate supply chain, a crisis which continues today.
In 2016 some farmers still live on as little as £1.60 a day. Speaking this October at the London Chocolate Forum, the Head of the Fairtrade West Africa Producer Network said, ‘Most of them are living in straw huts, they can’t get drinking water or send their children to school.’ As a result the average age of cocoa farmers is 51. Younger farmers are leaving the poor wages behind and moving to the cities or ripping up cocoa trees and planting more lucrative crops.
The big chocolate manufacturers are in a panic. The buzz word is ‘sustainability’. By that they mean how can we stop the chocolate trees being ripped up and get farmers to keep growing chocolate?
To help big business move forward Fairtrade now offers a slightly different model through The Fairtrade Sourcing Program. This new idea means either the sugar or cocoa in your chocolate bar will be Fairtrade but not both. Recently Mars announced it would use the scheme to certify its entire cocoa supply as sustainable. And it is working. Fairtrade Africa says, ‘Building on the Fairtrade certification of MALTESERS® in 2012, this takes total Fairtrade Premiums paid by Mars globally to cocoa cooperatives in West Africa to over 2 million US Dollars per year by 2016.’
The Fairtrade Sourcing Program seems a sensible compromise - all the benefits of Fairtrade, a sharing of the profit and securing livelihoods.
Cadbury’s solution on the other hand, to pull away from Fairtrade and promote their own scheme, risks reversing the gains made through Fairtrade. For decades big business has been looking for a way to chip away at the gold standard of Fairtrade. Big business would love to get the Fairtrade Mark on non-Fairtrade products but this has been fought and not allowed. Cadbury seems to have achieved it somehow.
Cadbury have said they will at least take the same amount of Fairtrade sugar as before but no more than they currently use. They have not made any such promises to the Cocoa growers. Imagine if you were a Fairtrade cooperative and Cadbury announce they will no longer pay you the Fairtrade Premium. Cadbury say they will pay a ‘loyalty bonus’ instead.
At least the Fairtrade Foundation is allowed to monitor Cadbury, for now. How long these promises will hold for is any ones guess. Kraft, which bought Cadbury promised the workers of Bristol that their factory would not close. They closed it once they had purchased Cadbury.
However let’s not hide from the fact that Cadbury has dropped Fairtrade and is promoting their own scheme. This should rule them out of having the Fairtrade logo on their bars.
Do we need a new grass roots campaign?
Four years ago Chief Adam Tampuri, the Head of Fairtrade Africa, called Fairtrade the ‘Hope for Africa’. The season of Advent is all about Hope. I think that Fairtrade movement needs a new ‘campaign of hope’ to pressure Cadbury to reverse its decision; to make sure Cadbury can’t use the Fairtrade Logo on bars which have no Fairtrade chocolate in them; and to encourage other businesses to switch to Fairtrade, not fudge it.
Maybe we need a renewed Fairtrade campaign in 2017.
What others have said about the Cadbury Decision?
Executive director of the Food Foundation think-tank, said, “There is a risk that if every company has their own mark it will be extremely difficult for consumers to determine which mark represents the best, independently verified standard.”
This concern was echoed by Divine. “With the other major players also building their own company schemes, and potentially also opting out of any independent certification schemes, how are consumers to assess and compare the benefits to farmers being offered by the different chocolate brands?”
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