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Cadbury's Sustainable Cocoa Program: A Debate on Impact and Transparency

In recent years, Cadbury's sustainable cocoa program, Cocoa Life, has garnered praise and criticism within social enterprises. While the company's commitment to sourcing sustainably produced cocoa is commendable, engaging in an honest and transparent discussion about the program's impact is essential. In this blog post, we will explore the self-statement of Cadbury's sustainability efforts, highlight some of the criticisms raised, and draw important lessons about the significance of honesty and transparency in communicating about impact and sustainability.

African Children with Cocoa

Cadbury's Self-Statement: Cocoa Life and Sustainable Sourcing

Cadbury's Cocoa Life program empowers cocoa farmers, protects the environment, and fosters thriving communities. The program aims to enhance farmers' livelihoods through training and resources, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure in cocoa-producing regions. Cadbury's self-statement emphasizes its dedication to creating a positive impact throughout the cocoa supply chain, ensuring that its chocolates are produced with care and responsibility.

Criticism and the Importance of Transparency

Allegations of Child Labor: The Guardian reported fresh accusations of child labour on cocoa farms in Ghana in April 2022, including some farms supplying Cadbury. These allegations highlight the ongoing challenges in cocoa supply chains and the need for greater vigilance to prevent and address child labour in cocoa farming.

Fair Trade Concerns: Some critics, as highlighted by, have debated the pros and cons of Cadbury's approach to sustainable cocoa, particularly regarding fair trade practices. The debate revolves around the effectiveness of Cadbury's proprietary program versus third-party fair trade certification in ensuring equitable prices and fair treatment of farmers.

Fake Sustainability Claims: Freedom United, an organization dedicated to combating modern slavery, raises concerns about the credibility of sustainability claims in the cocoa industry. The organization cautions against companies making empty or exaggerated sustainability claims without concrete evidence or independent verification.

Need for Independent Verification: In a commentary by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the importance of independent verification in the cocoa industry is stressed. The commentary highlights the need for rigorous assessment and verification of sustainability standards to ensure the credibility and impact of sustainability programs.

Learning Points: Honesty and Transparency in Communication

The debate surrounding Cadbury's sustainable cocoa program underscores the importance of honesty and transparency in communicating impact and sustainability. Social enterprises should strive for the following:

Independent Verification: Social enterprises should seek independent verification of their sustainability claims to build trust and credibility. Third-party certifications and audits provide assurance that the stated impact aligns with the reality on the ground.

Addressing Challenges: Acknowledging and addressing challenges openly is crucial. Companies must take prompt and effective action when allegations, such as child labour, arise, working with stakeholders to implement robust safeguards and monitoring systems.

Continuous Improvement: Transparency includes acknowledging areas for improvement and demonstrating a commitment to ongoing progress. Social enterprises should regularly assess their programs, engage with stakeholders, and adjust strategies to maximize positive impact and address criticism constructively.


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