Cadbury's and Cocoa Life Respond to THTC

by Ashwin Bolar December 21, 2016

A while back, we shared a story that got you all quite heated on social. Cadbury's announced that they were abandoning Fair Trade labeling and accreditation, in exchange for their parent company, Mondelez's own certification system. This understandably got a lot of people, including us, a little miffed.

Then, Cadburys' Social Media presence turned up in the comments, and we posited them a few hard hitting questions (yeah, I gave them a hard time) regarding the scheme. We were met be silence. Until last week that is, when Cocoa Life's own PR unit, responded to our questions. We're passing their responses around some of our partners for a good looksee, but we'd welcome our communities' responses too - Cocoa Life: greenwash or legit?

Cocoa Life Q&A with THTC

THTC: Why do your reports appear to conflate higher farm gate prices with higher farmer incomes? Cocoa farm gate is controlled by a range of factors, such as reduced yield, market demand, etc., and doesn't take into account inflation or higher feedstock costs;


Cocoa Life: We agree that it’s important not to conflate farmer income with farm-gate price.

Cocoa Life is shown to make a real difference to farmers’ livelihoods. Farmer income has increased 49% more and cocoa yield increased 37% more in Ghanaian Cocoa Life communities than in communities outside the programme. These statistics compare farmers within and outside the programme. These statistics compare net incomes of farmers within and outside the programme and take inflation into account.

Separately to our statements on income, we also provided the following comments that farmers will receive a “competitive price for their cocoa, on clear terms of trade, and loyalty payments to Ghanaian farmers, which together with programme investments, will deliver value per farmer at least equivalent to that previously delivered by Fairtrade premiums.” This point is understandably important to Fairtrade.

Farmers and cocoa-growing communities face serious challenges. Most Cocoa farms operate at a cash subsistence level. Many Cocoa farm in countries like Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire are locked into a subsistence farming trap for three main reasons: low crop yields, low farmer incomes, and poor community development.

Many organisations are working hard to improve the lives and livelihood of farmers and their communities – but much more needs to be done.

Cocoa Life puts farmers first and aims to empower current and future generations to create thriving farms which boost the entire community. Cocoa Life will benefit 200,000 farmers and 1 million people in communities in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil.


2 - Cocoa Life is in turn verified by FLOCERT, yet FLOCERT's accreditations appear to be based on Fair Trade IP. Why create your own accreditation process, instead of improving an already robust framework? Why does Mondelez feel that a certification that's removed by a 3rd degree comes close to transparency? Are Fair Trade's annual dues cutting into Mondelez's bottom line? Or is Fair Trade 'not fit for purpose'?


The Cocoa Life program is already independently verified, and this will continue as Fairtrade joins the program as a partner.

Verification measures the impact that the program is having on the ground, and this is currently done using 10 KPIs to show impact. This verification is done by independent third parties (IPSOS). These 10 KPIs are: 

  1. Net income from cocoa (men and women)
  2. Cocoa productivity (men and women)
  3. An increase in women’s participation in decision making process
  4. Increase of capacity in the community to plan and advocate for their own social development
  5. Net income from sources other than cocoa (men and women)
  6. Cocoa farmers reduced vulnerability to external shocks
  7. Reduction in child labour and forced child labour
  8. Increased career opportunities for youth in the cocoa sector (men and women)
  9. Helping future farming generations through sustainable natural resources use of farms
  10. Increased conservation of forests and maintenance of ecosystems

The results of this verification are published publicly in a progress report. You can read our last progress report covering 2015, which goes into the data regarding income and productivity here on page 21-22:

In addition to this, FLOCERT will continue independently verifying the volumes of cocoa traded and the value of the loyalty payments paid to farmers under the Cocoa Life scheme.

Fairtrade’s independent involvement in Cocoa Life will also provide assurance of how the programme is driving positive impact for the farmers.

The new partnership will secure additional investment on issues like climate adaptation and resilience. We have been told by farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire that they see this as one of the biggest threats to their future livelihoods, and yet they are struggling to adapt and diversify.

The main reason we are switching is because, as the world’s biggest chocolate company, we realise we need to take responsibility and be directly involved in tackling the challenges of cocoa sustainability. To do this we are moving from a buyer to an active and accountable partner, and in doing so are investing directly, working on the ground, and overall becoming accountable for our impact.

We believe the challenge of sustainability is too important to be outsourced, and this is why we are investing so heavily behind the Cocoa Life program, and running it in partnership with a number of key NGO partners including Fairtrade, VSO, Care and Solidaridad.

3 - Are you able to expand on the list of 'recognised workers unions' and civil society organisations that Cocoa Life currently works with?

Alongside Fairtrade and Flocert, we work with NGO partners such as CARE International, VSO, Solidaridad, Save the Children, Swisscontact and World Vision who implement the program in the cocoa origins and our external advisors from Anti-Slavery International, UNDP and WWF who provide us strategic advice and program oversight.  

4 - Why did Cocoa Life specially commission - then vet - an 'independent' report into its Ghana operation? Surely the nature of an independent report is that it has a level of distance, and is free from any commercial influence? Have Cocoa Life-related operations been audited by independent ILO bodies?

Through Cocoa Life, we want to become an accountable partner for our cocoa farmers, not just a buyer. We commission third-party experts to report on progress against our KPIs, which are designed to measure impact. In 2016, we published data from Harvard University reporting on progress against two of these KPIs - income and productivity - in Ghana. As the program develops, we will publish updates across our Cocoa Life origins.

In addition, FLOCERT will continue to independently verify the terms of trade of Cocoa Life as the programme grows. This involves tracking the quantity of sustainably grown and traded cocoa and the loyalty payments made to farmer organisations.


5 - Fair Trade exists as a completely independent body, to monitor and accredit all levels of international agricultural trade. Cocoa Life appears to be a single-entity recreation of the RSPO, an 'industry-led' roundtable that on paper looks to ensure the sustainability of palm oil, yet does little of the sort (as evidenced by our partners, the Environmental Investigation Agency). How can consumers be assured that the Cocoa Life Initiative is acting in the best interests of farmers, in the absence of an open and transparent audit?

Cocoa Life is not modelled on the RSPO in any way. It’s a company program, not a roundtable or foundation. We work with NGO partners such as CARE International, VSO, Solidaridad, Save the Children, Swisscontact and World Vision who implement the program in the cocoa origins and our external advisors from Anti-Slavery International, UNDP and WWF who provide us strategic advice and program oversight. 

We’ll report the impact that we achieve, using third-party monitored and verified data. In addition, Fairtrade will hold us to account by publishing an annual review of our impact.



Ashwin Bolar
Ashwin Bolar


Director of Digital Marketing for THTC

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