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Natural Foods Merchandiser

‘Choc’ another one up for sustainability: Mars, Inc. commits to sustainable cocoa by 2020

Global food company Mars, Inc., which makes popular chocolate products like Snickers and M&Ms, announced yesterday that it is aiming to certify its entire cocoa supply as being produced in a sustainable manner by 2020.

To accomplish this goal, McLean, Va.-based Mars is partnering with Rainforest Alliance, based in New York City. Rainforest Alliance is an international not-for-profit organization that works to “conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.”

While there is no single industry definition of sustainability, Rainforest Alliance-certified farms meet the environmental, social and economic standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network. SAN standards consider a range of factors including ecosystem conservation, worker rights and safety and wildlife protection.

According the Rainforest Alliance, 80 percent of the world’s cocoa supply comes from an estimated 2 million cocoa growers who operate small, family farms in the west African nations of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In order to meet Mars’ needs, enough cocoa farms will need to be brought up to code to generate 100,000 tons of Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa per year by the 2020 deadline.

“The biggest hurdle is getting the number of certified farms to meet their demand. That’s the reason that it’s 2020,” said Abby Ray, communications associate for Rainforest Alliance. “It’s an extreme undertaking.”

“This is a huge commitment,” Ray said. “The fact that one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world is taking this step shows that sustainability is going mainstream. It’s a real turning point.”

On March 4, London-based Cadbury announced it is partnering with the Fairtrade Foundation to achieve fair trade certification for some of its products, including the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar, by the end of this summer.

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