Politics of Poverty

From Earnestness to Action

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Nestlé’s response to Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign

Yesterday Oxfam received a response to its call to action from Nestlé, one of the three chocolate companies we’ve engaged on behalf of women cocoa farmers. We welcome Nestlé‘s letter as an indication of Nestlé‘s intent to do more for women cocoa farmers and workers. Nestlé‘s Executive Vice President for Operations, José Lopez, indicates an earnest seriousness on behalf of Nestlé to take these issues and Oxfam’s call to action. However, it does not go far enough in making a strong commitment for women’s empowerment.

N'Dri Chantal Konan, age 70, separates the pulp from cocoa in Allahteresekro, Ivory Coast in January 2013. Photo: Peter DiCampo / Oxfam America

Firstly, if Nestlé were truly ready to do something for women, why not start with committing to the UN’s Women Empowerment Principles? This would go a long way toward showing Oxfam, consumers, and most importantly the women in Nestlé‘s supply chain that they are committed to tackling gender issues. In 2012, Nestlé did conduct an assessment of Nestlé’s cocoa supply chain with the Fair Labor Association in Cote d’Ivoire, as well as recent consultations on child labor. Their letter to Oxfam indicates a willingness to consider the recommendations on women in that report, but does not yet commit to knowing and showing what is happening to women more broadly in their cocoa supply chain by conducting a separate assessment.

Furthermore, we are not surprised to hear that members of the cooperatives involved in Nestlé‘s Cocoa Plan are almost all men. That is precisely the problem. Nestlé and other chocolate companies shouldn’t just accept this, but rather incentivize its suppliers to more actively include women in co-ops, and particularly in decision-making processes. Nestlé must be more active in targeting training for women farmers, recognizing the critical role they play in pre and post-harvest.

Nestlé indicated in the letter that they will come with a detailed plan in some weeks. We are looking forward to the reviewing the plan and the necessary actions.

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