Jan 2024

Mars Cocoa Supply Chain


  • Since 2019, we have been partnering with Mars, Incorporated, a large food and pet-care multinational company, on the sourcing of its cocoa from complex origins.

  • We have been identifying the root causes of well-known sustainability challenges in cocoa farming communities and generating a holistic view of supply chain challenges.

  • This has enabled us to address these challenges with innovative Economics of Mutuality business model solutions.

  • The purpose of the project has been to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farming families, with a particular focus on income and women’s empowerment, while securing a sustainable supply of cocoa.


Identifying stakeholders and mapping the ecosystem around meaningful challenges:

  • Leveraging insights from an in-depth ecosystem map of cocoa farming families in Cote d’Ivoire covering ~25 stakeholder groups based on 100+ interviews and 2 weeks of ethnographic research.

  • Undertaking a quantitative study using survey data of key drivers of farm productivity (e.g., membership of a co-op) to improve performance of existing sustainability initiatives.

  • Surfacing key pain points relating to the reliability/quality of cocoa supply and the livelihoods of farming communities.

  • Deploying an extensive baseline survey with ~2,500 respondents to determine the impact of the company’s Village Savings and Loans Programs (VSLA) on improving trust between farmers and the empowerment of women – both key drivers of productivity.

Designing strategic interventions to address key pain points:

  • The new insights led the company to focus resources on extending the VSLA and to launch a new initiative called the Livelihoods and Ecosystem Accelerator Program (LEAP), which addresses breakdowns between exporters, co-ops, and farmers.


Non-financial impact:

  • Currently 12,000 VSLA members, scaling to 50,000 by 2025.

  • Improved income and wellbeing for ~40,000 people in Cote d’Ivoire cocoa farming communities.

  • Improved trust between members and partners in 4 co-ops.

Financial impact:

  • Multi-year contracts set up with co-ops to deliver certified sustainable cocoa, which reduces costly uncertainty in supply and protects the company’s license to operate.



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