Mondelēz International recently released their annual Human Rights Due Diligence and Modern Slavery report for 2021, in which they claim to have made strong progress towards their 2025 ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) goals. 

The company has a number of social and sustainability goals to achieve by 2025, with the intention to “prevent, identify, and address potential human rights and modern slavery risks in its own operations and supply chains.”

Based on the report, Mondelēz International is partnered with almost 210,000 farmers in over 2,500 communities and has invested over USD$400M in support of farmers’ livelihoods. Those kind of statements however are frustratingly vague, and

They reportedly made significant progress in three key areas throughout 2021: Human Rights, Child Education, and Child Labour Monitoring.

In the last year, the company highlights the top three achievements below.

  • Launched a dedicated Human Rights Policy and continued commitment to pay its employees a living wage
  • Invested $3 million towards the Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF) to improve access to and quality of education for children in cocoa-growing regions in Cote d’Ivoire
  • Doubled coverage of Cocoa Life communities with Child Labor Monitoring Systems (CLMRS), reaching 61% in West Africa, expanding coverage to 1,548 communities.

We cross-referenced the links to the Jacobs Foundation and found out more about this organisation which has been operating a project to improve access to education, focused it appears, on children under 5, since 2016.

In 2021, Jacob Foundation’s media release highlighted some of their achievements:

  • Raising CHF 92.2 million in direct co-investments in the TRECC program between 2016 and 2021
  • Commitments by all stakeholders, including for the Child and Learning Facility (CLEF), since 2016 have risen to CHF 162.4m.
  • Bringing 17 individual cocoa and chocolate companies into TRECC.
  • Reaching over 241,000 children under the age of 5 with early childhood development intervention.
  • Providing educational benefits for over 200,000 children and youth.
  • Developing strong partnerships with the Ivorian Government, private companies, researchers and civil society organisations

Jacobs Foundation is supported by: The Government of Côte d’Ivoire, Jacobs Foundation, UBS Optimus Foundation, Barry Callebaut, Beyond Beans, Cargill, Chocolonely Foundation, ECOM, Ferrero, Fuji Oil Group and its subsidiary Blommer, Guittard, Hershey Company, Lindt & Sprüngli, Mars Wrigley, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, ofi, Sucden and Touton have so far jointly committed CHF 69 million ($72 million) to CLEF

According to Mondelēz, cross-sector cooperation is necessary to prevent child labour in the Cocoa sector of West Africa. The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) – composed of Mondelēz International and peer companies, suppliers and NGOs – reached 590,000 households across Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in 2021, with systems that help prevent and address child labour.

The root cause of child labour, they believe, is lack of access to schooling, which should be addressed systemically. Mondelēz International says they are investing approximately USD$3 million towards improving children’s access to quality education in Cocoa-growing regions. In particular, they are investing in two initiatives focused on improving access to education: The Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF) – which brings together the government of Cote d’Ivoire, peer companies and foundations – as well as the Early Learning and Nutrition (ELAN) initiative, led by the Jacobs Foundation. 

The goal of this investment is to improve access to education and its quality for 5 million children, which equates to 90% of rural primary schools in Côte d’Ivoire. This can be achieved through the construction of 2,500 classrooms and proven interventions to improve the quality of teaching.

A challenge which was not addressed directly in the press release was whether any progress had been made with the government to help keep children in school by ensuring they have birth certificates. Children that are not registered in the country are not able to attend schools beyond a certain age.

In 2021, Mondelēz International also joined IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative) Living Wage Roadmap to help advance living wages in global supply chains and confirmed a continued commitment to pay its employees a living wage.

Through our flagship ingredient sourcing program Cocoa Life, we are learning from our decade of experience on the ground in Cocoa communities about the importance of living income. Building on our ongoing focus on promoting human rights, we joined the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) Living Wage roadmap to help advance living wage and income in global supply chains. We will also work with our suppliers with the goal of having all our strategic suppliers engaged on a living wage roadmap by 2030.

Laura Stein, Executive Vice President for Corporate & Legal Affairs and General Counsel, Mondelēz International

While it appears that Mondelēz has made significant steps to reach its 2025 ESG goals, the efficacy of ESG in its current form, as a solution to the issues facing Cocoa farming communities is still in question. A recent Harris Poll survey of Google’s global corporate CEOs found that two-thirds of them were unsure of how genuine or effective their sustainability efforts were. Read more here.

You can read the full report by Mondelēz International here:

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