Cocoa – Sustainability | Mars, Incorporated




We need to begin with the individual farmers who make up the industry. To increase their yields and incomes, we need to help provide better access to improved planting materials, fertilizers and best-practices training. Our work in Indonesia and West Africa is a good start — we’ve shown that this kind of support can help farmers to triple their yields in three to five years. This not only boosts supplies, but it also helps farmers lift their families up financially and gain access to essential services like education and health care.

To promote our approach around the world, our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative works across three areas to put farmers first:

  • Reaching as many farmers as possible by certifying our entire cocoa supply and encouraging others in our industry to commit to certification
  • Improving cocoa breeding, farming methods and protection against pests and disease by conducting breakthrough research
  • Giving farmers the knowledge and technology they need to triple their yields by investing in critical cocoa-sourcing regions



Putting the farmer first is the guiding principle for our programs. By prioritizing cacao farmers' needs, we believe we can tackle the challenges facing the cocoa industry in a systematic, holistic way.

The core elements of a successful cocoa farm are:

  • High yields produced using modern, sustainable agricultural practices
  • Access to good-quality plants and the right agricultural products, especially fertilizer
  • Well-educated farmers growing the right plants and managing their land and crops efficiently
  • Effective market access
  • Ongoing support and investment from governments and private companies

To address the major challenges facing farmers and the industry, we’re building a public-private network that helps promote and support these elements around the world.

Our Strategy — The Sustainable Cocoa Initiative (SCI)

Our strategy is driven by the needs of cocoa farmers, their families and their communities. At the heart of our strategy to increase productivity with smallholders, are four pillars:

  1. Research by Sequencing the Cocoa Genome
    In 2013, we announced our revolutionary sequencing of the cocoa genome and our initiative to share — pre-competitively — the results. Breeders are now using this knowledge to identify traits of disease resistance, enhanced yield, efficiency in water and nutrient use, as well as climate change adaptability, among the world’s cacao trees. Ultimately, this will result in healthier, stronger and more productive cacao cultivars, which will improve farmers’ yields and income. 
    Learn more about the Cocoa Genome project. »
  2. Certification
    By 2020, we are committed to sourcing 100% of our cocoa from certified sources. We have made significant investments and have partnered with organizations, such as Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified and Fairtrade. We also are leading efforts to strengthen certification standards across the board.
    Learn more about cocoa certification. »
  3. Vision for Change
    Because we believe that a holistic approach to addressing the needs of the community is the only sustainable way to improve livelihoods, Mars created Vision for Change in 2010. The purpose is to work with cocoa farming communities to improve agricultural practices, thereby increasing yields. It also is to address community needs, such as education, health and gender empowerment. We do this through the establishment of Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) and Cocoa Village Centers (CVCs). CDCs educate farmers on managing their land and crops efficiently, and CVC operators provide farmers with good quality plants, fertilizers and pesticides, and they help with training and business management.
  4. Scale Through Industry
    The challenges we face are complex and must be tackled collectively. We are a part of CocoaAction, an unprecedented effort by the chocolate and cocoa industry to drive cocoa sustainability on a non-competitive basis. Launched by the World Cocoa Foundation, the goals and ambitions of the coalition are consistent with our productivity and community development approach, and will reach 300,000 farmers (200,000 in Côte d’Ivoire and 100,000 in Ghana) to increase their productivity and advance development initiatives within their communities.

Find out more about our approach to cocoa challenges.
Find out more about our approach to cocoa challenges.


In 2016, more than 50 percent of the cocoa we use came from certified sources. Using certified cocoa helps improve the livelihoods of farmers and helps to protect the environment.

But we know that women are often excluded from cocoa growing communities and have limited access to land, training and finance. That’s why we’re working with CARE International to empower women in cocoa through access to finance and training – just one of the many ways we’re helping to build a sustainable cocoa supply chain.  



“The Mars Cocoa Sustainability Team has given me the knowledge and the access to brand new technologies, which allow me to earn more for my family.”
Laodi, a cocoa farmer in Sulawesi, Indonesia

Not only has Laodi broadened his skills through training, he’s now passing them on to other farmers in the area. Laodi has become a Cocoa Doctor for his village, and started his own nursery to distribute high quality cocoa seeds and seedlings in his community.


  • We are currently the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations: UTZ, the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International.
  • In 2010, Mars signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Minister of Agriculture of Côte D'Ivoire, which allows us to work directly with the Ivorian government on productivity projects for farmers.
  • We work together with anyone in the chocolate industry who shares our view and is willing to work with us, including competitors. We have signed MoUs with cocoa suppliers Barry-Callebaut and ECOM to expand our programs in Côte d'Ivoire, and congratulated Ferrero and Hershey on becoming the second and third major manufacturers, respectively, to commit to 100 percent certified cocoa.
  • To benefit farmers, we’ve invested heavily in breakthrough science like mapping the cocoa genome. We were happy to release the results into the public domain so they could be used by everyone to develop better breeding practices and lead to healthier, more productive trees for farmers.    
  • To educate farmers on best agricultural practices, we built 17 Cocoa Development Centers in Côte d’Ivoire, four with the help of our friends at ECOM and Barry-Callebaut. We have also selected the first five Cocoa Village Clinics operators in Soubré.


More than five million farmers in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas are responsible for growing most of the world’s cacao. These farmers continually struggle with unproductive, aging cacao trees they cannot afford to replace. In some places, their yields, incomes and quality of life are in decline.



Demand for cocoa is growing. Assuming a two percent annual growth, the world will require at least one million more metric tons per year to meet needs by 2020. This is the equivalent of doubling present production by the Côte d'Ivoire, the world's leading cocoa producer. But while demand is increasing, farm yields are declining — our industry needs to act now so we can protect the future of the field for everyone.

Three key issues contribute to this pressure: underinvestment, under-performing farms and fragmentation.


For farmers to succeed in growing their crops, they need access to research that helps them produce higher-quality plants, control pests and diseases, and maintain overall better agricultural practices. But research takes time, costs money and demands a sophisticated infrastructure to transfer knowledge to the farm. As a crop mostly grown by individual farmers, cocoa hasn’t historically benefited from government or industry support — as a result, it’s lagged behind other crops like corn and wheat. We think it’s time for that to change.


Farmers deserve the right tools to create high-performing farms. But right now, they are instead struggling with aging cocoa trees that produce less and less cocoa over time and dangerous pests and diseases that can destroy much of their harvest. On top of this, many farmers don't have access to agricultural tools and products that will enable them to flourish, including good-quality plants, fertilizers and knowledge of best practices. These difficulties result in low productivity and incomes, which mean that farmers often lack education, information and financing to improve their skills and output.


There are more than five million cocoa farmers worldwide, many working in remote parts of West Africa, Asia and the Americas. Their sheer number makes it very difficult to make industry-wide changes. To transform the cocoa industry in the systematic way that’s required, we need to partner effectively with NGOs, governments, food manufacturers and other groups with a stake in its sustainable future. By drawing on our collective expertise and resources across the world, we can deliver a holistic program from farm to factory and help safeguard the future of the industry.


World Cocoa Foundation

The World Cocoa Foundation promotes a more sustainable cocoa economy through economic and social development and environmental conservation in cacao-growing communities.

International Cocoa Initiative

The International Cocoa Initiative is a partnership between NGOs, labor unions, cacao processors and the major chocolate brands that is dedicated to changing the way cacao is grown.

International Cocoa Organization

Membership of the International Cocoa Organization represents cacao-producing and cocoa-consuming countries — that means pretty much everywhere.

National Confectioners Association

The National Confectioners Association helps the industry grow by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry and its consumers.

Cocoa Producers Alliance

The Cocoa Producers Alliance is an inter-governmental organization that promotes cocoa research.

See more about the challenges of cocoa sustainability.
See more about the challenges of cocoa sustainability.


Certification is the best tool we in the cocoa industry have to provide farmers worldwide with consistent and continued support. Our cocoa certification practices aim to go beyond our existing activities by introducing new productivity measures that will help make sure certification directly increases growers’ incomes.

The first UTZ-certified cocoa from Indonesia was produced in August 2010 — an encouraging result of our certification advocacy. We continue to develop new cacao-growing regions in Asia, including by purchasing UTZ-certified cocoa from Vietnam.

Fairtrade is more than just a logo to us. MALTESERS® is the third biggest confectionery brand in the UK, and all of the products under it in the UK and Ireland carry the Fairtrade logo. The popularity of this product led to an increase in total UK sales of chocolate made from Fairtrade-certified cocoa by 10 percent. We are looking for opportunities to scale up our use of Fairtrade certification in the longer term to help us accomplish our 2020 target.



We’re 100 percent committed to certifying all of our cacao as sustainably produced by 2020. As the first global chocolate company to make this promise, we’re fast on our way to becoming the world's largest buyer of certified cacao.

Because we can't have a direct relationship with every farmer, we use certification to reach further down the supply chain than we could on our own. Certification creates a set of standards against which cocoa farming can be measured and helps us be sure those standards are being met. This means we know that the cacao we use is produced in a way that is good for farmers and good for the environment.


Everybody benefits from certification — a great example of our Principle of Mutuality in action. Our partner organizations like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified developed advanced standards for organizing, training and auditing farmers. The process helps farmers organize and gain access to new markets, building better farms and increasing their income. In turn, we get a traceable, safe supply of high-quality and sustainably produced cacao.

Since we buy such a large amount of cacao, we can influence the entire industry by buying more and more certified raw materials. By making certified cocoa the rule rather than the exception, we are increasing the supply of high-quality cocoa to the whole industry by raising standards across the board. But the industry needs to do even better. For certification to make the widespread and lasting difference that is required, many more manufacturers need to commit to certification.


We have the most rigorous certification principles in the business, and we are actively looking to work with any organization that is committed to meeting them. We choose our partner organizations with care — each one must make a real difference to farmers' lives in income, labor practices and skills.

We only work with organizations that are, like us, committed to:

  • Giving farmers the tools they need to increase yields
  • Producing quality cocoa in a sustainable, environmentally beneficial way
  • Helping farmers to significantly increase their incomes

While certification doesn't offer a guarantee — no one can check all of the millions of cacao farms in the world — it does provide incentives. Combined with the other pillars of our approach, including research and technology transfer, it is a powerful force for industry-wide change.


We've invested millions of dollars and committed to milestones that will take us toward our 2020 goal of 100 percent certified cacao. Here’s our plan:

2009: We announced our intention to use 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020
2011: 10 percent of our cocoa came from certified sources
2013: 30 percent of our cocoa came from certified sources
2015: 40 percent of our cocoa came from certified sources
2020: 100 percent of our cocoa will be certified

Mars accounts for 10 percent of the total industry supply of certified cocoa.


ISEAL Alliance

The global association for social and environmental standards

Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance is an international certification organization. We source 100% of our cocoa volume for a number of our products including: DOVE® Dark Chocolate, Galaxy® in the UK, and American Heritage Chocolate from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms, segregated and traceable from the farms to our factories. The Rainforest Alliance helps farmers around the world gain the tools and techniques necessary to protect wildlife, the environment, and the rights and welfare of their workers and their families.

Given the large volumes of chocolate we produce, we are unable to ensure traceability and segregation through to the individual products in stores, but we are committed to increasing the volume of sustainably-grown cocoa we purchase from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms to make our chocolates.

UTZ Certified

International certification organization

Fairtrade International

International certification organization


A sustainable commodities initiative managed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


Cacao farmers produce just 10 percent of the output they could achieve under perfect conditions with best practices. By contrast, corn production has reached 60 percent of its theoretical yield. Typically funded by governments, agricultural agencies or universities, research into cacao cultivation has long been under-resourced, receiving far too little research or funding. It’s our duty to help boost the productivity of the farmers we depend on by encouraging greater funding into cacao research.

Our work is led by the Mars Center for Cocoa Science in Bahia, Brazil, which opened in 1982. The Center is a hub for world-class science and collaboration and leads our work on cocoa breeding, agroforestry systems, biodiversity-rich environments and land rehabilitation.

One of our proudest accomplishments is our collaboration with IBM and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Center, during which we unraveled the sequencing of cocoa genomes. Since then, scientists worldwide have used that work to develop more resilient and higher yielding cocoa crops.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re doing the right thing by helping farmers like Yao, who can now buy the fertilizer he needs to fortify his crop. It’s mutuality at its best.” — Manuel Salazar, Mars Chocolate Associate and Mars Ambassador Program Participant



We want to build a consensus to drive more funding for cocoa research — the first step is sharing the knowledge we already have. That’s why we share work like our genome project and lead innovative new programs that could advance industry knowledge. By working together, we can increase the quality and performance of cacao plants and better control the pests and diseases that threaten their existence.


Our primary goals in advancing global cocoa research are to:

  • Increase collaboration between cocoa-producing and cocoa-consuming regions through stronger regional links and increased contact
  • Create an effective common agenda across the industry to prioritize key issues within genetics, quality and agronomy
  • Increase funding available to cocoa researchers
  • Enhance the publication and dissemination of cocoa research


We’re getting to a better world faster by sharing knowledge. With our partners at IBM and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we helped unlock the cocoa genome — instead of patenting the results, we released them to the public in 2010. Through the Cocoa Genome Database, researchers in the industry and scientific community can take advantage of our work and use it to drive new cocoa research.


Genome sequencing helps take the guesswork out of traditional crop cultivation, allowing breeders to produce better plants in months rather than in years. It also advances farmers' ability to plant more robust, higher-yielding and disease-resistant trees. This is a great example of how business can help solve complex global issues.

Check out the Cocoa Genome Database which provides public access to the results of the cocoa genome sequencing project.

See more about the challenges of cocoa sustainability.
See more about the challenges of cocoa sustainability.


To achieve the greatest benefits for the largest number of farmers, Mars Chocolate is building Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) in several cocoa-growing regions of Asia and West Africa. We’re working with international donor agencies, governments and other groups to provide farmers with the tools, techniques and training to cultivate high-quality yields. Farmers can use planting materials from CDCs to establish Cocoa Village Clinics — local nurseries that help with the commercial distribution of cocoa plants and provide an additional source of income.

We want to reach 150,000 farmers in the Côte d'Ivoire by 2020. Under our Vision for Change program, we hope to help at least this portion of the country’s 750,000 total farmers triple their yields to up to 1.5 tons per hectare.

Cocoa Sustainability Infograph

By 2020, we aim to have 100 percent of the cocoa that we buy be certified.