08/03/2017 11:21 GMT | Updated 03/03/2018 05:12 GMT

Tackling Exploitation In Cocoa Farming This Fairtrade Fortnight

With as many as one in five shoppers never thinking about whether food had been produced in exploitative conditions, this year's Fairtrade Fortnight campaign is timely in calling for more people to choose ethically produced goods, so more farmers in developing countries are treated fairly.

It might sound like a relatively modest ask. But in reality it's far from simple. Today, farmers face increasingly complex social and economic challenges. Many remain in poverty as their incomes fail to keep up with rising production costs and household expenses.

For cocoa farmers, many are trapped in a cycle where they just make enough money from selling their crops to meet their basic needs. This leads to under-investment, outdated farming practices, unproductive trees.

Despite work by many organisations, there is much more to do to ensure our supply chains are sustainable and fit for the future. Not only is the right thing to do; our very future depends on it. Without cocoa there is no chocolate. And without the next generation of cocoa farmers there is no cocoa.

If conditions are to improve, there needs to be a step-change in how businesses view their supply chain relationship with farmers. Critically, that means moving away from being a buyer towards being an integral partner for farmers and their communities. In practice there are three central pillars to such an approach.

Firstly, ensuring that farmers receive a competitive price for their products - whether cocoa, sugar or cotton - on clear terms of trade.

Secondly, a focus on impact; giving farming communities control over their own destinies - rather than imposing solutions on them. This means providing education and enabling them to create and deliver their own tailored action plans that address their specific needs.

Thirdly, is taking a holistic approach, providing tangible farming support - like better agricultural tools and more resilient cocoa trees - but also creating stronger communities by investing in areas like women's empowerment, health and education and improving access to finance.

We work with CARE International and other NGOs to provide Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) in cocoa-farming communities. Members of a VSLA make small, regular monetary contributions to a shared pool, from which they may each take out low-interest loans--up to three times the amount of their contribution--after three months. This enables communities access to a legitimate source of credit, and helps reduce the likelihood of them being in a vulnerable position.

This is just one of the many ways we are already hard at work with our partners like Fairtrade to create positive change within the communities upon which we depend. Our Cocoa Life programme - an independently verified, industry leading sustainable cocoa farming programme - is solely focused on creating brighter futures for farmers and building thriving cocoa communities.

I'm proud that we are one of the organisations making great strides towards creating a better future for cocoa. As the world's largest chocolate company, we have a responsibility to build on all we have learned to help improve conditions and create truly successful cocoa-growing communities. That's why we're extremely proud that we are expanding our Cocoa Life programme through a new global partnership with Fairtrade. It means that five times as much Cadbury chocolate in the UK will now be made with sustainably sourced cocoa. It means that whenever they see a Cocoa Life label it represents thriving cocoa farming communities and makes a real difference to people's lives.

Visit the Cocoa Life website for updates on how Cocoa Life is progressing.