Field report: Chocolate giants open up their books

Two hands holding a bunch of chocolate candies

Goal:

To increase transparency chocolate companies General Mills, Unilever, and Mondelez’s cocoa supply chains after they failed to participate in the 2023 Chocolate Scorecard in March 2023. We called on them to participate in 2024’s Scorecard, which assesses and grades them on key sustainability issues so that we have insight into their efforts to address forced labor.

Summary:

The scope of chocolate products that General Mills, Unilever, and Mondelez produce is wide-ranging, counting a total of approximately 200 different kinds of chocolate candies. They therefore have the potential to influence working conditions in the cocoa supply chain, notorious for child labor in hazardous conditions, known for human trafficking for forced labor, deforestation, and the use of pesticides.

It is alarming that three of the largest chocolate companies refused to take part in the project in 2023. This means that customers are left in the dark about where the chocolate for their Cadbury, Milka, and Toblerone (Mondelez), Magnum and Wall’s (Unilever), and Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, and Cocoa Puffs (General Mills) comes from, and under which conditions their favorite candy is created. 

That’s why Freedom United launched our action to hold General Mills, Unilever, and Mondelez accountable and we got results!  

Transparency helps consumers understand what efforts companies are making to address social issues like forced labor. Transparency also encourages companies to adopt better practices, such as ensuring farmers receive a fair wage, work under better conditions, and eliminate exploitative child labor 

Timeline of events:

March 20, 2024: The 5th edition of the Chocolate Scorecard is released. Unilever and Mondelez are among the companies evaluated. Read how they did here. General Mills has failed to participate for the third time.

January 30, 2024: A plaintiff files a class action lawsuit against Mondelez International Inc. alleging that alleges that the company engages in practices that perpetuate child labor and child slavery while falsely claiming its products are “sustainable.” 

December 28, 2023: Mondelez releases a statement claiming illegal child labor is “explicitly prohibited” in their operations as a response to an article by the New York Times accusing them of it.

September 25, 2023: General Mills publishes its Modern Slavery Statement. It emphasizes its prohibition of child labor and claims to be taking program activities for child labor awareness. Sounds promising and like they have nothing to hide that could be uncovered in participating in the 2024 Chocolate Scorecard… 

March 2023: Unilever releases its 2023 U.K. Modern Slavery Act Transparency Statement. Child labor in their cocoa supply chains is not mentioned once.

March 2023: The action is launched. Our supporters sent emails demanding transparency from General Mills, Unilever, and Mondelez through a couple of clicks.

Outcome:

With the release of the 2024 Chocolate Scorecard in March, we celebrated a win: Unilever and Mondelez caved to pressure and participated in the 5th edition!  

It’s not all great news, however. Mondelez scored near the average of the chocolate companies, ranking 25/38, and received an orange award, meaning they “need improvement in policy and practice.” Especially in the field of child labor, they scored below average and took rank 29/38.

Unilever did a bit better, making it into the top 20% of all companies, ranking 7th out of 38! Thus, they were awarded a yellow score, standing for “progressing in policy and practice.” 

Unfortunately, General Mills has once again refused to participate in the Chocolate Scorecard. We are disappointed – but not defeated! We’re only going to come back stronger!

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