In response to your email regarding MARS SNACKFOOD US.
Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts regarding working conditions on cocoa farms. Mars takes very seriously our responsibility to the cocoa farming families who provide us with this important ingredient. Our privately owned company's heritage is based on a genuine commitment to the communities that are touched by our business.
At Mars, Incorporated we invest significant resources in both manpower and funding to help ensure the sustainability of the cocoa supply chain. Our support is designed to ensure future supplies of cocoa and promote a responsible approach to its production so that the communities and the environment in which cocoa is grown can thrive.
Since 2001 Mars has played a leadership role in the global cocoa and chocolate industry's efforts to address allegations of child abuse on the cocoa farms of West Africa. Mars is working with the national governments of Cote d'lvoire and Ghana (the world's largest cocoa growing countries), labor experts and community-based organizations to support the establishment of a certification process to ensure that cocoa is farmed free from the worst forms of child labor.
We recognize that achieving real change requires working in partnership with others who have skills complementary to our own. To support that approach the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an independent voice dedicated to eradicating abusive child and forced labor in cocoa production worldwide, was established in 2002. As a registered charity, the ICI's Board of Directors represents a wide range of stakeholders: human rights and child labor organizations, trades unions, local groups in the cocoa growing countries, and the cocoa and chocolate industry. We are proud that one of our senior Mars executives had been chosen to serve as co-president of the ICI. The ICI is making great strides towards improving labor conditions in the cocoa growing regions of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. For more detailed information on the programs of the ICI, please visit www.cocoainitiative.org.
We are also working to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families through our participation in the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), a public-private partnership between the cocoa and chocolate industry and government supporters. This program, operating in West Africa, has successfully promoted farmers' organizations and co-operatives leading to improvements designed to help farmers achieve better prices for their cocoa. Through its Farmer Field Schools Program, the STCP also helps farmers gain increased yields by improving farming techniques. For more information on the STCP, please visit www.treecrops.org.
In addition, Mars is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), a global organization of cocoa and chocolate companies, processors, traders and others who are dedicated to improving the conditions of cocoa farmers and the communities in which they live. WCF programs raise farmer incomes, encourage responsible, sustainable cocoa farming and help strengthen cocoa farming communities. Members provide financial contributions as well as technical expertise and guidance to partners in West Africa and other program locations.
Education is key to the sustainability of rural livelihoods. Working alongside Winrock International - an organization skilled in implementing rurual education programs - and others, Mars is helping children from cocoa farming communities as they learn to become the farmers of tomorrow. Programs offer access to vocational skills that will be relevant for the children and their communities now and in the years ahead.
These steps to address cococa growing conditions in West Africa are the continuation of a long-term commitment Mars began in 1998 to improve the well-being of millions of small farmers who grow cocoa. To learn more, visit www.cocoasustainability.mars.com.
Our response to their letter.
Thank you for responding to my email. I am a little confused. If you've been working on this problem since 2002 with 2005 milestones to be met, why then did the US Congress write you a letter urging you to get your act in gear? Why does the ICI Conference recommendations list have URGENT in front of every action item? How do you account for the fact that in the last 10 years slavery has risen 49% in West Africa but has decreased 10% in the rest of the world? Where is the evidence that anything has changed? Certainly not from any media visits to the area. Your letter resonates "trying". I know this is a complicated and difficult situation. But so is running a huge corporation. You don't tell your stock holders that you are "trying" to put together an annual statement. You just do it. Please prove to me that I am wrong. I'm sorry but so far your previous communication didn't cut the mustard.
Sincerely, Ayn Riggs, Slave Free Chocolate