The maker of M&Ms and Snickers said that it is overhauling its cocoa supply chain in a bid to tackle problems that the wider sector has so far failed to address including deforestation, child labour, and poverty.
Named Cocoa for Generations, Mars' latest sustainability strategy plans to place the interest of the smallholder farmer at its centre, safeguard children and forests, and create a way for both cocoa farmers and cocoa-growing communities to thrive.
The US-based firm is spending $1bn on the scheme over the next ten years and, by 2025, it has said that all the cocoa it buys will be responsibly sourced.
"For nearly 40 years we've been working to achieve sustainable cocoa production," said John Ament, Global Vice President – Cocoa, Mars Wrigley Confectionery.
"While we've made progress, including reaching nearly 180,000 farmers with sustainability certification, we are impatient with our pace of progress and of the cocoa sector overall.
“We don't have all the answers but our first step is to put the farmer at the centre of our ambitions and actions. We plan to inspire others and work together to ensure Cocoa for Generations."
At the moment, 50% of the cocoa that Mars buys is certified by schemes such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade and it hopes to maintain if not increase these volumes.
Mars says that its latest sustainability scheme “goes beyond” the current level of certification standards and practices.
As part of the initiative, the confectionery firm said that it will work with suppliers and partners to “overhaul” its premium model, ensuring that farmers receive a higher share of the premium.
The Cocoa for Generations plan will also use satellite-based GPS mapping to ensure that its cocoa supply doesn’t come from protected forest areas.
Fairtrade said: "We applaud Mars for recognizing the role of the small holder farmer at the heart of an ambitious plan in cocoa sustainability.
“Without progress on incomes for these farmers, a sector-wide transformation is not possible.
“We need more companies showing leadership on issues in this way, which is why we are excited at the prospect of continuing to work with Mars to grow our impact in a way that delivers more for the company, whilst putting farmers first."