by Michael Connor

Cocoa_Pods_FeatureAn effort to ensure that the world’s chocolate supply will continue for future generations was among the corporate programs receiving a 2010 U.S. State Department Award for Corporate Excellence.

Mars Inc., the confectionary manufacturer, was selected “for improving farming methods, sensitizing communities against child labor, and promoting the overall well-being and sustainability of cocoa growing communities.”

The ACE is given annually to U.S. businesses that exhibit good corporate citizenship, promote innovation, and advance democratic principles around the world.

The other two companies honored by the State Department were Denimatrix, a textile and apparel company chosen for reducing the environmental impact stemming from its production process in Guatemala, as well its and community involvement in that country; and Cisco, the computer networking company, which was chosen “for helping to connect the Israeli and Palestinian economies and people, and engaging in several partnerships and initiatives to enhance technical capacity, connectivity, education, and opportunities for women and youth in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

Mars last year pledged to use 100% certified sustainable cocoa in all of its products worldwide by 2020.  The company’s chocolate brands include M&Ms, Snickers, Dove and Mars.

Earlier this year, Mars released the results of a research project which it said produced the preliminary cacao genome sequence.   Release of the genome sequence would, the company said, “help improve traditional breeding programs, and ultimately bolster production to benefit farmers worldwide.”  Environmental assaults on farmer’s cocoa crops inflict $700 to $800 million in damages each year, according to the company.

According to the World Cocoa Foundation, there are between 5 and 6 million cocoa farmers worldwide, with 40 million to 50 million people dependent on cocoa for their livelihood.  West and Central Africa account for nearly 70% of the world cocoa supply, 90% of which is grown on nearly 2 million small family farms, according to the foundation.

The State Department said the three winners of ACE awards were chosen from 12 finalists. The other finalists were Alta Ventures in Mexico, Coca-Cola in Swaziland, Fiji Water in Fiji, GE in India, Intel in Costa Rica, PepsiCo in India, Qualcomm in China, Synopsys in Armenia, and Tang Energy in China.

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