Oxfam's "Behind the Brands" campaign has turned its lens to the chocolate industry, and how that industry specifically targets female consumers — while at the same time abusing their developing-country sisters who pick and process the beans. The organization is calling for the biggest companies to stop ignoring the women who work in their cocoa supply chains.
The companies all responded immediately, each citing their various initiatives to work more closely with farmers. Oxfam shot back with "The projects the companies tout are piecemeal at best. What’s needed are fundamental changes to the policies that actually govern the way these companies do business. Together [these companies] purchase nearly one third of the world’s harvested cocoa. They have the power to influence suppliers, governments, and certification bodies and they can influence policy shifts and practices in the sector."
The power of the world's largest companies to affect change across an entire industry has been seen to be incredibly effective; when McDonald's started buying sustainable fish, or when Walmart banned controversial flame retardants, it changed the landscape for other companies as well.
So what about the women? They are far and away the largest buyers of chocolate.
Oxfam rated companies besides chocolate-makers on their scorecard, looking at how women are treated, as well as a host of other issues including water use, transparency, climate change and land use. It's worth a look at how each of the 10 largest food companies rated.
Do you think these companies have an ethical responsibility to treat their workers and the environment better? Will Oxfam's scorecard mean you will change your buying habits?