Ben & Jerry's Pays Cocoa Farmers a Living WageWith 75 flavors spanning from classic Vanilla and Chocolate Fudge Brownie to Phish Food and Chunky Monkey, Ben & Jerry’s operates in 38 countries. Yet, the ultra-popular brand name signifies more than a tasty frozen treat. For much of its history, Ben & Jerry’s has been an outspoken supporter of social justice movements.  Ben & Jerry’s most recent efforts to create a more equitable future prioritize providing a living wage to cocoa farmers in West Africa.

Cocoa Farming in West Africa

The vast majority of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, and especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Côte d’Ivoire alone exports 30% of cocoa beans sold to such chocolate makers as Nestlé and Mars.  The global chocolate market is a large one. It generates huge profits for the mostly European manufacturers who create chocolate bars and other sweets. In addition, it is extremely profitable for the retailers who sell these products on their shelves.  In 2014, for instance, sales for chocolate confectionary added up to $100 billion.

The value chain is incredibly lopsided, though. Côte d’Ivoire exports more cocoa beans than anywhere else in the world. Around 25% of the country’s population relies upon income generated from cocoa.  Yet these cocoa farmers earn barely $1 per day, less than the $1.90 that marks the extreme poverty line. International sales for chocolate depend upon these farmers and their laborers, but they will see just over 5% of a chocolate bar’s final value.

Cocoa farmers have long faced the challenge of a volatile market since predicted demand and harvest yields can drive prices up or down. Tim Adams highlighted this problem in The Guardian after the price Côte d’Ivoire farmers received fell sharply in 2017. At the same time, Barry Callebaut, which ranks among the world’s biggest cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers, earned 12% more the next year, with a profit of $288 million.

Improving the Supply Chain with Fairtrade

Fairtrade International is one organization working to change this disparity. Since its founding in 1994, Fairtrade has sought to give small producers a square deal by creating more transparency in the supply chain. Although the organization now works with farmers on multiple continents growing a wide variety of crops—including bananas, tealeaves, sugar cane and coffee beans—cocoa was one of its first targets. This has meant that buyers of any Fairtrade-certified chocolate bar can be sure that:

  1. The Fairtrade Minimum Price cocoa farmers receive is geared towards covering production costs, even when prices fall.
  2. Farmers also receive a Fairtrade Premium that they can use to pay for any project they wish. In the past, these have included buying new trees and improving storage facilities.
  3. Cocoa producers agree to provide good working conditions for their hired workers. Discrimination, forced labor and child labor are all banned.

Finally, Fairtrade is working to establish living incomes for small-scale farmers and agricultural workers, over and above nationally set minimum wages. According to Fairtrade, a living income should allow people to afford nutritious food, decent housing and other essential needs with a small amount set aside to pay for unexpected emergencies.

Ben & Jerry’s Commitment

Here is where the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is stepping up to help the cocoa farmers. The company is a longtime supporter of Fairtrade. Additionally, it has paid millions in Fairtrade Premiums to small-scale farmers growing key ingredients like cocoa. Now, however, Ben & Jerry’s has committed to paying higher prices so that 5,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire will earn $600,000 more per year. Divided equally, each farmer will receive about $120 in additional income.

While the price increase will not immediately fill the gap between minimum wages and a living income, Ben & Jerry’s Chief of Social Mission Dave Rapaport has hopes for the future. He told Forbes that Ben & Jerry’s work with Fairtrade is an integral part of a larger strategy—and not just in Côte d’Ivoire. “This is one further step on a longer-term journey that will continue for us,” he said, “[because] we are really committed to helping farmers in our supply chain obtain living incomes and we will be expanding those efforts to supply chains beyond cocoa.”

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Africa
As the fourth largest export in the world, cocoa has made significant contributions to the global market ever since its introduction to Nigeria in 1984. Many big brand chocolate and ice cream companies such as Mars, Hershey’s and Snickers are dependent on this market, though much of the revenue does not go to cocoa farmers or workers. In 2014, chocolate sales reached up to $100 billion, yet cocoa farmers were living off a wage of $1.25 per day. However, there is hope as Ben & Jerry’s provides support to cocoa farmers in Africa.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farming

With rising demands for cocoa production and insufficient compensation, cocoa farmers in Africa are reluctant to discontinue the use of child labor. A study from the University of Chicago reported that about 1.6 million children work on cocoa farms, mostly found in Ghana and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) — the two largest cocoa production sites. Ghana and Ivory Coast account for two-thirds of the world’s cocoa bean production and exploit impoverished children as young as 5 years old who need to support their families.

Despite the slowed rates of child labor in Africa’s cocoa production, farmers and working children struggle to maintain a sufficient income to support themselves. Cocoa trees take years to cultivate and harvest, which is too time-consuming for a volatile and unreliable market price. Nongovernmental organizations that strive to end child labor in Africa speculate that cocoa farmers’ insufficient incomes stem from supply chains. Although programs are in place to reduce child labor and help farmers in the supply chain achieve self-sufficiency, cocoa production does not yield enough to combat poverty among the farmers and workers in the industry.

Ben & Jerry’s and Fairtrade

On Nov. 17, 2020, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand released a statement announcing its commitment to paying a livable wage to the cocoa farmers in Africa. In partnership with Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry’s plans to allocate funds toward Fairtrade’s premiums, which are supplemental bonuses that farmers receive for quality work. With extra funding, cocoa farmers have been able to build health facilities and install essential amenities, such as water pumps or solar panels.

Fairtrade also released its new mission statement to provide a livable income for its workers in the cocoa sector. By focusing on multidimensional poverty alleviation for cocoa workers, Fairtrade plans to allocate funds to implement assistant programs, make partnerships to push for sustainability and push for policies to protect small stakeholders in poverty. By collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s, both brands guarantee financial support to the 168,000 cocoa farmers abiding by environmentally friendly structures and producing quality ingredients.

Looking Forward

Ben & Jerry’s continues to promote Fairtrade and push for liveable wages in Ivory Coast and Ghana’s cocoa bean plantations. In its recent statement, it announced, “As part of our new price commitment for the cocoa we will work with Fairtrade to evaluate and [ensure] we are making a positive difference for farmers.” By marking its Fairtrade partnership on cocoa-based ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie flavored ice cream will now be a reminder that consumers are supporting businesses in Africa.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Hiring Refugees
The world is currently facing a record-high number of displaced people. Globally, more than 70 million people fled or are fleeing their homes as a result of domestic war, systematic persecution, hunger or any number of other life-threatening conditions. These people are refugees.

Refugees who have fled their home countries rely on other countries to take them in and provide them with the basic necessities for survival, like food, water and shelter. Many of these people, however, have extremely limited access to the job markets of their host countries. Therefore, it is difficult for them to find a source of personal income.

Recent studies show that integrating refugees into the host country’s workforce can be economically beneficial on multiple levels. Some have estimated that closing job and pay gaps for refugees around the world could generate as much as $2.5 trillion globally. Displaced refugees represent a largely under-utilized source of labor, and giving them the opportunity to be part of the workforce could profoundly impact productivity.

Employment Benefits Refugees and Host Countries

Hiring refugees has the potential to benefit all parties involved. The refugees themselves often benefit most directly from integration into the workplace. Having a source of personal income can be extremely liberating for displaced families; it increases financial independence and allows them to rely less on the aid of their host country. It also means that children can go to school and receive an education instead of staying home to help support the family. Essentially, it allows refugees to become more productive members of society.

Contrary to popular rhetoric, the host country also benefits economically from hiring refugees. By having jobs, refugee workers are contributing to the productivity of the country and increasing the gross domestic product. Additionally, most economists found that one cannot substantiate the fear native workers have over refugees and other migrants “stealing” jobs—displaced people generally look for vacant positions that do not require a mastery of the host country’s language.

Refugees and Migrants Create Jobs

Refugees and migrants also tend to have much higher rates of entrepreneurship than the rest of society, meaning that they create jobs. It may be helpful to use the U.S. as an example here. In the U.S., migrants—a larger distinction of people living in a foreign country that encompasses refugees—represent about 15 percent of the population. However, migrants constitute about 25 percent of America’s entrepreneurs, indicating that they have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than the average citizen. In 2015, over 180,000 refugees created $4.6 billion in American income due to entrepreneurial ventures.

Organizations that hire refugees have reported much higher retention rates than the average. For example, manufacturing represents the industry where the highest proportion of refugees find work—about 20 percent. The refugee rate of turnover in this industry is just 4 percent, compared to the 11 percent national average. This means that refugees often make industrious and loyal workers on whom businesses can depend. Overall, refugees generate billions of dollars each year through entrepreneurship, consumer spending and job retention.

Finally, the country of origin can also benefit economically when other countries take in its refugees. Host and origin countries share a relationship that could potentially open up networks of trade and investment that boost the origin country’s economy. Additionally, when people from the origin country integrate into the host country’s workforce, it creates business networks where refugees might learn skills and master technology that they can communicate back home. These networks of trade and business can help update the origin country’s economy and make it more competitive.

Global Companies Hiring Refugees

Below are just a few of the companies hiring refugees and working to better integrate refugee populations into the workforce in a variety of different countries.

  1. Sodexo: A facilities management company, Sodexo pledged to hire 300 refugees in the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Brazil by 2020.
  2. Ben & Jerry’s: The beloved ice cream company plans on hiring at least 500 refugees throughout Europe once it completes a business incubator program in 2023.
  3. Barilla: The pasta magnate Barilla plans on hiring 75 refugees in Europe by 2023.
  4. Building on a German pilot program that trains refugee women to be nannies and childcare workers, will train 1,000 refugee women to enter the care industry by 2020.
  5. Hissho Sushi: The sushi chain plans on aiding 1,250 refugees in becoming franchise owners by 2023, in conjunction with more locations opening across the U.S.
  6. Amplio Recruiting: Amplio hopes to provide 10,000 refugees in the United States with employment opportunities by 2023.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Ben & Jerry's Fair Trade
It’s been a long day at work and you finally have a chance to sit down with a bowl of chocolate ice cream in front of the television. While flipping through channels, you come across a news story about child slavery in the Ivory Coast, where 43% of the world’s cocoa is produced. You pause with a spoonful of creamy goodness on the way to your mouth and think, “Isn’t anything safe anymore? Can’t I just enjoy my chocolately treat in peace?”

At this point, you have two options: you can keep flipping the channels and focus on how tasty your ice cream is, or you can finish reading this post to discover where to buy fair trade, guilt-free chocolate. Although, it really isn’t much of a choice, now that images of child slaves are lugging bags of cocoa beans around inside your head.

Lucky for everyone involved, many companies are making the switch to Fair Trade cocoa. Fair Trade USA, a non-profit that certifies American products as Fair Trade, currently works with more than 800 companies to ensure that their products comply with all international Fair Trade standards. They certify a multitude of products, including tea and herbs, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, flowers, nuts, honey, and (thankfully) cocoa.

The following list consists of five companies that are using Fair Trade cocoa, as determined by Fair Trade USA. These are just a few of the many companies from which you buy chocolate that tastes great and makes you feel even better.

For your ice cream fix, go with Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont-based company is in the process of converting all ingredients to Fair Trade and profiles their progress by flavor on their website. Their Chocolate Therapy flavor is currently made with 71% Fair Trade ingredients, so eat up!

If you need some dairy-free creaminess, meet NadaMoo. This delicious coconut milk ice cream is organic and Fair Trade Certified. With flavors like Java Crunch, Lotta Mint Chip, and Gotta Do Chocolate, you can enjoy pint-sized dairy-free and slavery-free yumminess.

When chocolate-covered treats catch your eye, look for a SunRidge Farms label. Their organic and Fair Trade Certified dark chocolate-coated almonds, cacao nibs, espresso beans, goji berries, and raisins are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth (or teeth).

Looking to build some muscle with chocolate-y goodness? Tera’s Whey Organic Fair Trade Certified Dark Chocolate Whey Protein is your answer. Your endorphin high combined with that warm fuzzy feeling from buying Fair Trade will leave you feeling fantastic.

For your baking needs, try SunSpire’s organic and Fair Trade chocolate chips and baking bars. When making its chocolate products, SunSpire doesn’t use refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors. The company has also made a long-term commitment to its cocoa farmers through their Caring for Cocoa Communities program, which provides hands-on support for growers and helps to foster growth in their communities.

Now that you’re armed with information, it’s time to head to the store and support these companies using Fair Trade chocolate. Who knew doing the right thing could be so delicious?

Katie Fullerton

Sources: Fair Trade USA, Ben & Jerry’s, NadaMoo, SunSpire

Citizens of the world are less and less supportive of capitalism solely based on maximizing short-term profits. More and more companies are acknowledging their obligation to all the participants in their business, from the shareholders, to the employees, to the communities they operate in. Unilever is one such company, realizing and owning their need to contribute to the societal welfare and environmental impact for the countries it operates in. They want to propose a new model of capitalism that focuses on the long term, in which companies try to solve social and environmental problems and give equal importance to the needs of communities, as well as their shareholders.

Unilever has over 400 brands worldwide under its umbrella, ranging from foods to household cleaners, including Lipton, Knorr, Dove, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; sold in almost every country, with two billion people using a Unilever product every day. Their huge distribution network enables them to make huge changes on a massive scale.

They have developed a range of initiatives that both help people as well has support their business’s growth. One focus is on hygiene, where public health specialists advise that the most effective intervention is to encourage hand washing at key times of the day – before and after eating, etc. Unilever developed the brand Lifebuoy with a marketing strategy based on campaigns to educate mothers and children to adopt this simple gesture. Trial programs in Mumbai, India have shown that, compared to control groups, those who benefited from the change in behavior were 25% less likely to suffer from diarrhea and were less absent from school for medical reasons. The campaign is now being expanded to Southeast Asia and Africa. It has a triple advantage – the consumer is healthier, the company sees a decline in health care costs for its employees, and Unilever benefits from increased sales of soap.

Unilever’s greatest impact is within the agricultural sector. Worldwide, the company purchases 12% of the world’s black tea, 3% of the tomatoes, and 3% of the palm oil. They have committed to halve their environmental footprint by 2020, and source 100% of their agricultural raw materials sustainably while enhancing the livelihoods of people across their value chain.

A third sphere of influence is in economic development through engagement and strengthening of their small-business affiliates. Unilever is connected with more than one million small farmers alone. They are able to work directly with the farmers to improve their productivity through a partnership with local and international organizations, expand their distribution efficiency, and train them in new techniques. Oxfam estimates the number of small-businesses that Unilever touches is more than half a billion, and improving their lives and businesses is an effective way to reduce poverty.

And, this April 9th – you can get free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, as they “give back” to their communities all over the world.

– Mary Purcell

Source: UN ITC