Certify, Fazer, time for excuses is up

Anu Kultalahti |

In its press release, Fazer accuses Finnwatch of spreading misleading information. The claim seems to stem from one sentence that has been lifted from the petition text: "certification is currently the only means by which consumers can be certain of the adequacy of responsibility monitoring of cocoa production". According to Fazer, its chocolates are responsible, although it buys a large share of the cocoa it uses through its own farming programme from producers who are not in the scope of certification schemes. 

Adequate responsibility monitoring is characterised by its independent and transparent nature. These principles are not realised in Fazer's own farming programme. It is Fazer itself that determines the criteria for responsible cocoa production in its farming programme. The company says it monitors compliance with criteria and monitors the programme's impact, but does not make this information public. Fazer independently decides whether or not its supply chains are responsible.

According to Fazer, the share of certified cocoa it uses is growing, and this is a good thing. Fazer states that in 2016, 63 percent of the cocoa it used was certified. The problem with this is that we must rely solely on Fazer's own words in this matter. Consumers cannot check what share of the raw materials in the chocolate they have purchased has been certified nor can they select between certifications used by Fazer. If all companies from the smallest to the largest operated in the same manner as Fazer, no one would know who to believe in a jungle of varied claims of responsibility. Fazer's communication pulls the rug out from under the credibility of certification schemes.

A company's own projects cannot replace independent third-party responsibility monitoring.

It is a good thing that Fazer seems willing to develop farming communities and farmers' livelihoods. Those who farm cocoa experience many challenges, and the contribution of anyone, who wants to develop the sustainability of cocoa farming, is a welcome addition. However, companies own projects such as Fazer's farming programme cannot replace independent third-party responsibility monitoring. A company's own programmes must come in addition to basic level responsibility monitoring, not in place of it.

Finnwatch is not alone in this view. In August 2015, a group of Finnish grocery retailers, NGOS, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs signed a joint vision on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in grocery trade supply chains. The vision states that certification schemes that are based on international third-party criteria are always the primary option for the implementation of credible responsibility monitoring.

We have just one message for Fazer, and this has been the since 2012: acquire credible third-party certification for your chocolate products.

As Fazer stated in its press release, Finnwatch and Fazer have held dialogue on this matter for several years. However, our message seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Would Fazer listen to its consumers?

Anu Kultalahti

Anu on tutkija Finnwatchin Ihmisarvoisen työn tutkimusohjelmassa. Ohjelmassa keskitytään järjestäytymisvapautta, työaikoja, elämiseen riittävää palkkaa ja työturvallisuutta koskeviin kysymyksiin yritysten alihankintaketjuissa kehittyvissä maissa.

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