MDLZ releases new Cocoa Life strategy to help protect children and improve access to quality education

Progress Blog
How Cocoa Life continues to help combat child labor by enhancing child protection systems and improving access to quality education in cocoa life communities

Virginie Mahin, Senior Director Global Social Sustainability & Stakeholder Engagement, Mondelēz International

At Mondelēz International, we are committed to making our snacks the right way: helping protect the planet as well as respecting human rights across our value chain. When we started the Cocoa Life program 10 years ago, we wanted to help combat child labor by investing and engaging with communities to help deliver positive impact where we source cocoa from suppliers. This enabled us to start working more holistically with others to help tackle interconnected challenges causing child labor.

Photo from the author - Chris McGrath

"There are many root causes to child labour: lack of access to education, poverty, lack of access to health, safe water etc. So, if you want to tackle such a complex issue, you need to attack it from various angles. That's where holistic programs such as Cocoa Life bring a lot of benefits. They will implement multiple interventions at the same time to tackle those root causes."

Matthias Lange, Executive Director, International Cocoa Initiative

Our approach has been to test new ways to empower communities and help take promising innovations to scale. This has resulted in gathering learnings and child-centered insights that have helped influence where we will focus to evolve both at the program and industry levels as we seek to accelerate positive impact and help drive sector transformation.

As we announced the next phase of Cocoa Life in October this year, we also released the program’s new Strategy to Help Protect Children. This Human Rights Day, we shed light on our approach to help enhance child protection systems and improve access to quality education in Cocoa Life communities, which brings us closer to accomplishing our 2030 goals and ultimate vision to collaborate with others to help work toward a cocoa sector that is free of child labor.


To accomplish our 2030 goals, our Strategy to Help Protect Children focuses on three primary areas of response, which mirror UNICEF’s international child protection system strengthening standards.

To help prevent and support children at risk of child labor, our approach seeks to combat the underlying causes of child labor, with a particular focus on helping to empower communities. Community Action Plans (CAPs), for example, are based on needs assessments identifying community needs and development actions. Through CAPs, we’re helping to increase farming households’ net income, to empower women, to enable more children to have access to quality education and to integrate awareness throughout our work in Cocoa Life communities and beyond.

Beyond our efforts to help prevent child labor, we engage in monitoring to help identify cases of child labor and children at risk so they can receive support and remediation through community-based CLMRS. The experience of Cocoa Life communities is that CLMRS provides a positive impact as we continue our efforts to reach significant scale. By 2025, we aim to have all Cocoa Life communities in West Africa covered by Child Labor Monitoring & Remediation Systems (CLMRS). As of the end of 2021, we reached ~61% CLMRS coverage in Cocoa Life communities in West Africa, more than doubling coverage compared to 2020. This accelerated progress reflects our long-standing efforts towards our objective of reducing child labor in Mondelēz International’s cocoa supply chain.

Finally, we recognize that combating child labor requires structural strengthening of systems in a way that alleviates the underlying causes of child labor. That’s why we seek to collaborate with others to help enable systemic solutions over time. Collaboration with local and national governments and industry partners has enabled Cocoa Life to help build solutions that do just this. These include helping to enable universal access to basic quality education andinfrastructure development, helping reduce the need for informal labor in the household, and helping provide social protection and related benefits to the underserved.

Underpinning our strategy is the reality that helping to combat child labor is a shared goal and requires a collaborative process of partnership with governments, suppliers, communities, NGO partners, peer companies and multi-sector partners. That’s why we engage in multi-stakeholder engagement to help improve access to education. We are a part of the Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF), a collaboration between the Jacobs Foundation, the UBS Optimus Foundation, the Ivorian government and the broader cocoa sector. The collaboration aims to reach ~5 million children in cocoa-growing areas and beyond with a focus on access to quality primary education. We seek to support the development of a similar initiative in Ghana.

Strategy to Help Protect Children - press page

Mondelēz International has been a vocal advocate in favor of mandatory human rights due diligence legislation. We support legislative efforts aimed at enabling practical, proactive, ongoing human rights due diligence. We welcome the EU Commission’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence directive (issued in February 2022), which requires companies to identify and address human rights and environmental risks in their value chain.

Photo from the author - Dr. Aidan McQuade

"It’s very significant that Mondelēz was prepared to stick their head above the parapet and say: ‘actually, we need human rights due diligence to become mandatory, so that we can level the playing field and that all businesses start upholding human rights standards in their supply chain’. This kind of engagement with the European Union played an important role in bringing about the new due diligence law in one of the biggest markets in the world."

Dr. Aidan McQuade, Human Rights Expert & author of Ethical Leadership: Moral Decision-making under Pressure

Given our experience, we have an opportunity to help further drive sector collaboration with industry peers and by partnering with communities, governments, donors, and other sectors toward systemic solutions. We will continue to share our learnings, seek out exchange and partnership with relevant stakeholders, help convene those exchanges where relevant, and advocate for solutions that help combat the root causes of child labor; with the aim to help bring benefits to the wellbeing of children over the long term.