Why Ben & Jerry's Is Paying $600,000 More To Its Cocoa Farmers This Year

On Nov. 18, Ben & Jerry's announced that, as of October 2020, the 5,000 Ivorian Fairtrade cocoa farmers in its supply chain will receive $600,000 in addition to the $970,000 average of the Fairtrade Premium and Ivorian set minimum cacao price over the next year. 

"We're committed to working for economic justice through our ice cream," Cheryl Pinto, Ben & Jerry's Global Values-Led Sourcing Manager, explained in a press release statement supplied to Mashed, "and now we're making history by ramping up our commitment with the cocoa we buy. Starting with the cocoa in our chocolate ice cream mix, we're working towards the Fairtrade Living Income Reference Price for cocoa farmers, and this is the beginning." The economic justice Pinto points to is two fold. First, cocoa farmers, especially the smaller ones represented by Fairtrade, have next to no control over the global market price of their produce. Second, as climate change ravages the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, the risks around their farming increases exponentially.

The Fairtrade Living Income Reference Price, as a Fairtrade pamphlet explains, is an estimated average cost for a viable farm size and adequate productivity levels to make a living producing their crop. The press release sets this benchmark at $2.2 per kilo of cocoa. The hope for the additional money is that it could provide "decent housing and health care, clean water and education, plus a little extra for unexpected events, helping to break the cycle." It's another feather for Ben & Jerry's cap.

Ben & Jerry's is a huge proponent for trading fairly

Ben & Jerry's relationship with Fairtrade goes back a long way. In a 2010 Business Wire press release, it is stated that after a five-year initial partnership, Ben & Jerry's had committed itself to ensuring that their entire portfolio dealt with fair trade products. "Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie," Jerry Greenfield, the Jerry of Ben & Jerry's, stated. "The whole concept of Fair Trade goes to the heart of our values and sense of right and wrong."

By September of this year, Ben & Jerry's brand has become intertwined with social justice, as noted by Forbes. In talking to Chris Miller, the company's activism manager, they learned that Ben & Jerry's had first aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016 out of a similar sentiment given by Greenfield above. Sometimes they are a company villain, as in this 2018 piece by The Guardian about how migrant workers had to take on Ben & Jerry's for a contractually obligated agreement that included "a guarantee that housing will include a real bed (not straw piles), electricity and clean running water." 

In fairness, however, it should be noted that while wrong here, Ben & Jerry's had committed itself to doing the right thing more often than pretty much any big food brand out there. Helping the Ivorian cocoa famers whose livelihoods are caught in a cycle of environmental risk and poverty will hopefully keep them on that path.