The logo of Mondelez International is pictured at the company’s building in Zurich. Picture: REUTERS/MICHAEL BUHOLZER
The logo of Mondelez International is pictured at the company’s building in Zurich. Picture: REUTERS/MICHAEL BUHOLZER

Brands are becoming increasingly conscious that their success is determined beyond the products they sell – transparency around the origin of their products and sustainability have become important factors when determining customer loyalty.

One company that is very cognisant of this fact is Mondēlez International. Its global cocoa sustainability programme, Cocoa Life, works with cocoa farmers to ensure that every player in the brand’s journey is treated with respect, from the producers of the raw materials to the end consumer.

“Mondēlez, the producer of Cadbury chocolates, has always put sustainability at the forefront of its priorities,” says Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, head of Cocoa Life Ghana. “The company has never taken a ‘business as usual’ approach when it comes to the sustainability of our cocoa farmers. Cocoa is the very foundation of the chocolates we produce, which is why we have always ensured that it is made right,” she says.

Cocoa farmers – the majority of whom are in West Africa – are facing a number of new challenges: farming is largely left to older members of the community as younger members are drawn to urban lifestyles; farmers tend to cling to traditional farming methods that are no longer effective; disease that is destroying cocoa plants; and climate change.

“While creating a sustainable cocoa pipeline is crucial for the business, this is not only a business imperative but a development imperative too,” says Amekudzi. “Making it right means helping farmers tackle the challenges they face, which include gender inequality, child labour and poverty.”

When Mondēlez launched the Cocoa Life project in 2012, the company committed $400m over 10 years to build a cocoa supply chain by increasing productivity and empowering cocoa farmers to combat their challenges. The company has developed key partnerships with government and nongovernment organisations, all of which play a role in exposing cocoa farmers to basic education such as reading and writing, teaching them how to run their farms as businesses and providing them information around children’s rights and gender equality, says Amekudzi.

The Cocoa Life Programme is Mondēlez International’s way of ensuring its brands and chocolates support sustainable cocoa farming – a business and development imperative.

“Cocoa made right” is about protecting the people who produce the product – “happy farmers guarantee a sound supply chain”, she says. While it is possible for the brand to access cheaper raw materials, this is not what the Cocoa Life programme is about – which is ensuring that every person in the supply chain benefits from their role. Ultimately, she argues that business is changing and brands that are unable to acknowledge that their role has shifted will not survive in today’s complex and competitive marketplace.

Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate slabs sold in SA now bear the Cocoa Life logo. Amekudzi says: “Choosing the Cocoa Life logo means everyone can love our chocolate as much as we do, because it’s made the right way.”