Earlier this summer, British supermarket group Sainsbury’s inspired a flurry of criticism after launching its own in-house sustainability standard, ‘Fairly Traded.’ At the time of the announcement, The Fairtrade Foundation suggested the new model could bring about disempowerment — and set a dangerous precedent. It would appear as though the NGO’s fears have come to fruition — Mondelēz International has announced plans to drop the iconic blue and green Fairtrade mark in favor of its own sustainability scheme, Cocoa Life, for its ethical Green & Black's and Cadbury labels.
Green & Black's was launched in 1991 as an organic brand. The organic and Fairtrade logos have been present on Green & Black’s packaging for years, but were noticeably absent from the new Velvet Edition dark chocolate bars which hit UK shelves this month. In its stead was the Cocoa Life logo, the mark of Mondelēz’s “holistic cocoa sustainability program in partnership with Fairtrade.”
“These beans are not available in organic at the scale required for Green & Black’s, but I am proud that they are sustainably sourced, independently verified beans from the Cocoa Life program, of which Fairtrade will ensure we remain an accountable partner for farmers,” said Glenn Caton, Northern Europe President of Mondelēz.
Green & Black’s Classic range, which will be expanded and relaunched next year, will continue to be organic and Fairtrade logo, while the Velvet Edition range will bear the Cocoa Life label.
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Cadbury, another Mondelēz-owned brand, will also begin removing the Fairtrade mark from its Dairy Milk range this month, with the brand’s entire line of offerings in the UK and Ireland — including Flake, Twirl and Wispa — transitioning to the Cocoa Life branding by 2019.
Approximately 1.65 million farmers in 74 countries are linked to the Fairtrade system, which guarantees decent working conditions and a minimum price for crops. The Fairtrade Foundation — an independent nonprofit and certification body — administers the UK Fairtrade label, which appears on around 5,000 products. The group partnered with Cocoa Life last year to create “greater scale and impact for cocoa farmers and their communities.” Cadbury claims that under the program, five times as much of its chocolate will now be made with sustainably sourced cocoa.
According to Mondelēz, the $400 million scheme is already helping 92,000 cocoa farmers, a number which the company hopes to expand to 200,000 by 2022. Independent verification has also demonstrated that farmers’ incomes have increased by 49 percent under Cocoa Life compared with farmers not participating in the program.
However, not everyone is buying into the idea. Critics warn that new in-house verification and certification schemes could both undermine the Fairtrade system and create consumer confusion. “There is a risk of shoppers being left confused as some brands and retailers move away from the Fairtrade scheme to introduce their own certification schemes. With the Fairtrade mark on products, consumers are clear about what they are getting,” said Rachel Wilshaw, Ethical Trade Manager for Oxfam GB.
The Fairtrade Foundation, on the other hand, says that while Cocoa Life will not be traded according to Fairtrade standards, farmers will still receive a competitive price for their crop, additional loyalty cash payments, as well as further investments in projects and support to improve their farming practices and implement community action plans.