Big chocolate companies not doing right by women

Campaigns and Advocacy, Fair Trade & Workers Rights, General, GROW, Media Releases, News article written on the 08 Mar 2013

Oxfam Australia is urging shoppers to put pressure on the chocolate giants as a major investigation reveals Mars, Mondelez and Nestle are buying cocoa from countries where women farmers are treated badly.

On International Women’s Day – and as Easter approaches – Oxfam said Australians can change the way the big three chocolate companies do business to improve the poor conditions and inequality faced by women in all stages of chocolate production.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said Oxfam’s investigation into four countries where Mars, Mondelez (which owns Cadbury’s) and Nestle buy cocoa revealed women farmers faced discrimination, unequal pay and hunger.

“The women who help produce the chocolate we all love to eat are not being treated fairly,” she said.

“Mars, Mondelez and Nestle are doing very little to address the serious issues women face and yet, they have the power and responsibility to make a difference for these farmers.

“Australians can change the way these three chocolate companies do business. On International Women’s Day, and as people’s minds turn to buying Easter eggs, it’s the ideal time for Australians to use their consumer power and pressure these companies to stop putting women workers last.

“For decades, companies have put women first in their advertisements, now it’s time for them to do the same for the women who grow their ingredients,” Dr Szoke said.

Oxfam’s investigation into cocoa supply chains in Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast found: 

  • Women cocoa growers are often paid less than men.
  • Most people who work along the cocoa supply chain continue to live in poverty, and malnutrition in cocoa-producing areas of the world is rampant.
  • Women working in cocoa fields and processing plants suffer substantial discrimination and inequality. eg. A worker in Indonesia told Oxfam she is made to work without a contract and is called “an animal” by her supervisor, but has no way to complain. A worker at a cocoa-processing factory in Indonesia told Oxfam that all female workers were fired after a few demanded equal treatment and pay.
  • Women cocoa farmers have less access than men to land, credit, training and tools like fertilisers or irrigation systems.

Dr Szoke said that while all three companies had launched major projects to improve cocoa sustainability, and had committed to increasing the amount of certified cocoa they purchase, more work was needed.

“Companies deserve credit for this work, but these efforts are piecemeal and women are often an afterthought.

“Australians already think hard about what they buy, so we’re not asking people to feel guilty about chocolate. Instead, shoppers can push for change by using social media to tell their favourite brands and their CEOs they expect them to do better,” Dr Szoke said.

Mars, Mondelez and Nestle control 40 per cent of the chocolate market and purchase one-third of all cocoa, which is mostly grown by small farmers in developing countries.

Oxfam has given these companies a list of specific steps for them to take to protect women’s rights, including increasing training for women, promoting female recruitment and female leadership of farming cooperatives and requiring suppliers to provide a living wage to workers.

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