The Man Behind Mars Bars Going Sustainable

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First Cadburys, and then Mars have recently announced that they had switched to sustainable cocoa. Both are major coups for the sustainable and ethical movement and the workers who are toiling in the fields.

The man from Mars who made it all happen, Howard-Yana Shapiro, has been around a long time. A mere twelve years ago he sold Seeds of Change to Mars and was being called a traitor by some. It was small organic seed company started in New Mexico in '89. It was sold to Mars in 1997 and Shapiro stayed on to expand the brand.

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In 1997, Shapiro wanted to expand Seeds of Change into a wider range of foods and he needed the capital and know-how of a big company to do this. He chose Mars because he thought they "understood what we stood for, and shared the same views, though they used different ways."

In an interview in The Guardian he explained: "If you're interested in the future, scale is one of the things that's critical. I'm interested in not having any hungry people in the world. I'm interested in changing the lives of as many people as possible."

Since he joined Mars, the old hippy has changed his dress but not his beard or ethical outlook. As a result of his commitment, last June Mars announced it would "contribute $10m to a project to map the cacao tree genome and publish it for free to speed up the development of quicker-growing and more resilient varieties." Then the company "sponsored a major conference of NGOs and governments to develop a 30-year plan to encourage cocoa growers in Africa to plant different crops to restore nutrients to degraded soil and bring a year-round income."

And then the big announcement of their teaming-up with Rainforest Alliance and other certification bodies to ensure that all the beans bought by Mars would meet Rainforest Alliance ethical standards. That includes "minimum wages for farmers, conserving water and biodiversity-friendly pest management."

In the UK, its best-seller, the Galaxy chocolate bar, will get the Rainforest Alliance certification of approval by early 2010. In addition, the company has committed to getting its entire cocoa supply certified as sustainably produced by 2020.

Approximately four-fifths of the world’s cocoa production takes place in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The majority of cocoa trees are grown on 2-3,000 family-run farms which are easily susceptible to the influence of climate, disease and price-shifts. This commitment to buying their crops will make a huge difference to the national and local economy. The Guardian
More on sustainable and ethical Chocolate
Mars Candy Commits to Sustainable Cocoa
When is a Sell-out a Sell out

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