What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade holds producers to certain standards in order to achieve certification from one of the official Fair Trade labeling bodies, but oftentimes multiple, similar certification programs are described as “fair trade.” Despite the fact that “fair trade” is used as both a general description as well as a formal trademark by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (LINK to FLO site), there are many different organizations around the world that offer standards for ethical and environmentally sound production of a variety of goods, especially agricultural commodities.

Industry also plays an important role in the fair trade market, as these businesses serve as major purchasers of products from local growers.  Industry leaders, by investing resources and tools into ethical and environmentally sound production, can help achieve sustainable business practices and support local farmers on the ground.

“Fair trade,” or “certification” more generally can also help to address and meet growing worldwide demand for products.  For example, the global demand for sustainable cocoa is growing by 2 to 3 percent annually, yet the long-term supply forecast is flat even in an optimistic scenario. Mars Chocolate believes that the cocoa industry must work closely together to generate positive benefits for farmers in cocoa growing regions of the world to achieve higher yields, without harming the environment or using up limited natural resources.

Mars Chocolate and Fair Trade

Currently Mars Chocolate, through its Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, is working with fair trade certifiers to certify its products and help cocoa farmers increase productivity, quality and sustainability.  Since it is not possible to have a direct relationship with every cocoa farmer, certification offers the most effective way to reach the greatest number of farmers on the largest scale. Certification tracks cocoa through the supply chain and creates a set of standards for cocoa farming and enables partners to verify that those standards are being met.

To achieve the greatest impact, multiple certifiers are needed.  Fairtrade International, UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance are examples of certifiers whose goal is to provide farmers with cocoa training to help improve cocoa growing technologies and techniques, pay a premium for certified cocoa, and set up a cocoa growing monitoring system that utilizes a code of conduct that covers a variety of environmental, social and economic factors.

Mars has made a bold pledge to use only certified, sustainable cocoa in all of its products by 2020.  Mars was the first global chocolate company to make this promise and will soon become the world’s largest buyer of certified cocoa.

Underlying Mars Chocolate’s fair trade and certification efforts is a “Farmer First” philosophy that addresses a variety of complex social, economic, environmental and technical issues involved with producing sustainable, fair trade cocoa.  Mars, working with other industry partners and key stakeholders, has set an ambitious goal of reaching 300,000 farmers in West Africa where production makes up 70 percent of the global cocoa supply.  Through these efforts, Mars Chocolate is working to ensure that cocoa farming is a viable, sustainable business that encourages certification and enhanced agricultural practices and techniques.

In 2012 Mars Chocolate launched its first formally labeled fair trade product with the introduction of MALTESERS® in stores in the UK and Ireland.

Mars believes that the best opportunity to promote fair trade and achieve sustainability is through collaboration with industry partners, local governments and non-government organizations, consumers and producers to ensure continued access to goods in a way that will benefit local farmers, produce greater economic growth, and protect the environment.

Additional Information

For more information on the business case for cocoa certification, please visit IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative.  For farmer training formation on how to qualify for certification, please visit GIZ.