Co-ops react to Cadbury’s Fairtrade logo swap

The UK’s most famous chocolate maker Cadbury is changing the way it works with Fairtrade in an unexpected move “to drive greater scale and impact for cocoa farmers...

The UK’s most famous chocolate maker Cadbury is changing the way it works with Fairtrade in an unexpected move “to drive greater scale and impact for cocoa farmers and their communities”, leading to some co-ops considering dropping the accreditation.

The long-time supporter of Fairtrade has announced a new global partnership between Cocoa Life programme and Fairtrade that will support the rollout of Cocoa Life to Cadbury brands.

It claims the move will secure a positive future for 200,000 farmers and 1 million community members in six key cocoa-growing origins by 2022, with parent company Mondelez International investing $400m over ten years to 2022.

In the UK, five times as much Cadbury chocolate will now be made with sustainably sourced cocoa.

But co-operatives involved with Faitrade are questioning the need for the $400m in-house scheme say it could cause confusion. In line with views within the wider food industry, co-ops are concerned about the company moving the mark of the world’s largest and most recognised fair trade system to the back of its packaging.

Paul Birch, secretary of Fairtrade Association Birmingham and chief executive of coffee co-op Revolver, which carries the Fairtrade mark, said: “This is in my view an unmitigated disaster.

“Cadbury were a shining light, a jewel in the crown, and they have abandoned their principles and abandoned the thousands of supporters of Fairtrade around the country.”

Mr Birch recalled meeting the chief executive of Cadbury who told him he was proud of their Fairtrade accreditation.

“What he couldn’t know was that within a year they were to be taken over by Mondelez – [some of] their production moved to Poland, thousands of workers made redundant and Fairtrade cocoa abandoned,” he added.

“Even if you could forgive that, they have at the same time changed their formula. The chocolate tastes increasingly like Kraft cheese and less like Cadbury chocolate. The Cadbury chocolate bar now leaves a bad aftertaste in more ways than one.”

John Boyle, secretary of the Co-op Party (centre) with Paul Birch from Revolver (second from right) in Cadbury's hometown –Bourneville – when the company launched Fairtrade chocolate
Paul Birch (centre-right, secretary of Fairtrade Association Birmingham and chief executive of coffee co-op Revolver) and John Boyle (centre, president of Fairtrade Association Birmingham and secretary of the Co-op Party) in Cadbury’s hometown – Bourneville – when the company launched Fairtrade chocolate in 2012

Essential Trading co-op, an organic and Fairtrade product wholesaler, is reconsidering its participation in the scheme which supports “a despoiled mark” and has called on the Faritrade Foundation to address the concerns.

Addressing the Foundation in an open letter, Essential Trading wrote: “As a company we have been part of the Nestle boycott campaign for decades and were very disappointed that you embraced that company with its many well documented unethical stances.

“It appears to us, that by jumping into bed with these multinationals you have damaged your credibility, caused a loss of confidence in your mark and are in severe danger of engendering a crisis of faith in the Fairtrade consumer.

“This latest move further impacts your reputation and we believe may signal the end of your relevance in certifying an ethical approach to aspects of the food chain.”

Divine Chocolate, another co-op that carries the Fairtrade mark, is worried that consumers will be unable to assess and compare the benefits to farmers being offered by the different chocolate brands if more follow suit.

“We are disappointed to hear that Cadbury has chosen to opt out of this international movement for fairer trade and shift entirely to its own Cocoa Life programme through which to source its cocoa,” a spokesperson said.

“It is however good to know that, through Cocoa Life, Mondelez is continuing to invest in working with farmers in Ghana. We hope that the continued association with Fairtrade means that they will continue to support smallholder farmers to build their organisations.”

Co-operatives UK’s secretary general Ed Mayo, who was involved in the launch of the Fairtrade mark before he joined the co-op, is more optimistic.

Writing in a personal capacity, he said: “The test of the Cadbury announcement is whether cocoa farmers and their co-operatives are better off or worse off as a result of the decision.

“Fairtrade has grown on the promise not just that people benefit, but that there is independent certification of that benefit. The principles of Fairtrade are applicable more widely than just with a label, but stepping back from the label and direct certification will be a concern unless there is a credible way to show that this is the expansion of the model and not the dilution of its essence.

“We should hope that it succeeds, but be prepared to challenge if it does not.”

Since 2009, the partnership between Cadbury and Fairtrade has enabled the establishment of strong farmer organisations, provided training and support for farming communities, and offered benefits such as loan schemes and agricultural tools.

Cocoa Life was created in 2012 by Mondelez to sustainably source all of its cocoa supply by working with communities to help them set their own tailored action plans that will deliver the most value for them. The distinctive Fairtrade mark on the front of Cadbury products will be replaced with the Cocoa Life label.

Mondelez International is one of the world’s largest snacks companies, with 2015 net revenues of approximately $30bn. Creating products in 165 countries, it owns billion-dollar brands such as Cadbury, Milka chocolate, Jacobs coffee and Oreo biscuits.

Northern Europe president Glenn Caton defended the decision.

“Cocoa Life truly transforms communities by delivering real and measurable improvements for cocoa farmers,” he said. “We want to use our scale as the world’s largest chocolate maker to drive positive change for the communities on which we depend.

“We support Fairtrade’s vision to drive sustainable livelihoods through empowered farming organisations and communities and fairer terms of trade.”

Cadbury and Fairtrade will work together as the latter will become a partner for the Cocoa Life programme.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “The evolution of our partnership with Cadbury and Cocoa Life is an exciting development as it embeds Fairtrade, our values, principles and unique relationships with farmer networks, into the whole programme.

“In doing so, together we can increase the scale and impact of Cocoa Life, towards a common goal – one in which cocoa farmers, their organisations and communities are empowered, can invest in their own future, and go from just surviving, to thriving.”

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