Nestlé’s work with women farmers in its supply chain

Nestlé is committed to scaling-up its business-related activities and programmes to focus on promoting gender equality and education for women and girls.

The company supports the United Nations’ ‘Every Woman Every Child’ initiative that encourages governments, businesses and organisations to play a greater role in improving the health and wellbeing of women and children.

This includes exploring how it can do more to help improve the lives of women in its supply chain.

Behind the Brands

In February 2013 the charity Oxfam scored ten food and beverage companies on their efforts to improve food security and sustainability.

The Behind the Brands survey ranked companies according to their policies in seven areas: transparency, farmers, women, agricultural workers, access to land, water and climate change.

Although Nestlé received the highest score, Oxfam said all the companies in the survey needed to show improvement. The exercise was part of the charity’s GROW campaign, which is promoting efforts to ensure food security.

The scorecard was updated on 17 September 2013 and Nestlé retained the leading position.

Progress report
MAKING PROGRESS: Read our progress report (pdf, 2 Mb) on our action plan (pdf, 412 Kb) to help improve the lives of women in the cocoa supply chain.

Nestlé response

Nestlé Executive Vice President and Head of Operations José Lopez wrote to Oxfam on March 7, 2013 (pdf, 443 Kb) , stating what the company intended to do in response to the findings.

Nestlé published an action plan (pdf, 412 Kb) that sets out in more detail what it will do in the short and medium term to strengthen its efforts to promote and support the lives of women in its cocoa supply chain.

The plan will initially focus on Côte d’Ivoire before eventually being extended to other countries supplying cocoa.

Strengthen efforts

“We are determined to strengthen our efforts to promote and support the lives of women in our cocoa supply chain through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and our Rural Development Framework,” said Mr Lopez.

“We also recognise that strengthening the gender component of these projects will assist our priority focus on child labour.

“We are committed to working with partners such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), with other stakeholders like Oxfam, and with the rest of the industry to make gender issues a mainstream part of existing programmes across the cocoa sector,” he continued.

“Taken together, these actions will help us develop and implement concrete measures to increase opportunities for women in the cocoa supply chain.”

In January 2015, Nestlé published a progress report (pdf, 2 Mb) on actions taken since August 2014. The report discussed plans for 2015 under three main pillars: promoting equal opportunities, giving women a voice and helping to increase women's income.

Positive example

"Oxfam welcomes the steps that Nestlé is taking to improve the rights and opportunities of women in its cocoa supply chain," said Judy Beals, Head of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign.

"We will remain vigilant to see the Action Plan being implemented and adjusted next year based upon the upcoming impact assessment in Ivory Coast. We congratulate Nestlé on signing on to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. This move broadens Nestlé’s commitment to empower women throughout their supply chains and operations." *

Information gathering

In order to enhance its understanding of the role women play in its cocoa supply chain, Nestlé has asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to put an additional focus on gender issues when conducting its independent external assessments of the company’s cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire.

Oxfam welcomes the important steps that Nestlé is taking to improve the rights and opportunities of women in its cocoa supply chain. Alison Woodhead, Head of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign

Work on the assessments began at the end of September 2013 ** and will continue during the main cocoa harvest, which runs from October 2013 to March 2014. The assessments will be conducted in five cocoa cooperatives, selected by FLA. They will cover about ten villages and 200 farms. The results will be made public in the spring of 2014***.

As part of its external information gathering process, the FLA will also conduct interviews with women outside co-ops, as well as local stakeholders and NGOs that are specialised in women and gender issues.

The assessments' additional focus on gender issues will cover three main areas:

  • mapping the current role of women in Nestlé's supply chain, for example in cooperatives, as workers, as family members, in villages of farmers;
  • examining the risks women are exposed to and the obstacles they face at farms cooperatives and villages;
  • analysing the potential role women can play in improving labour conditions on farms.

Immediate action

Starting immediately, Nestlé will work with its supply chain partners, in particular ADM Cocoa, to collate data about the situation of women in the Nestlé Cocoa Plan supply chain, and to look for opportunities and define actions to improve equality of opportunity.

The company will initially focus on data collection relating to the percentages of women in decision-making positions, of women farmers trained and of women farmers in co-ops.

Nestlé has written to its certification partners UTZ and Fairtrade highlighting its willingness to work together to help address gender issues through certification.

The company is also in discussion with the United Nations Global Compact and other stakeholders to define its next steps relating to Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Valuable insights

Mr Lopez said that Nestlé will gather valuable insights it has gained from its work with female farmers in Pakistan and India and incorporate these into its actions.

In India and Pakistan, the company employs veterinarians and agronomists to supervise milk routes and provide female dairy farmers with advice on various issues, irrespective of whether or not they are Nestlé suppliers.

There is no charge for veterinary services, while medicines are provided at wholesale cost. The costs are adjusted against subsequent milk payments to the farmers, making the medicines affordable.

Nestlé also supports female farmers in expanding their operations, for example by assisting with artificial insemination programmes for cattle, subsidising the purchase of milking machines and helping them to procure loans.

In India, the company's 'Women Dairy Development Programme' has trained 30,000 female dairy farmers. In Pakistan, Nestlé's partnership with the United Nations Development Programme is training 4,000 female livestock farmers.


* May 17, 2013: The quote from Oxfam was updated following the signing of the UN Women Empowerment Principles.
** October 11, 2013: Updated to reflect progress.
*** July 2014 The FLA has now made public its report 'Assessing Women’s Roles in Nestlé's Côte d’Ivoire Supply Chain'. This can be found on the FLA website. Nestlé has now updated its Action Plan on Women in the Cocoa Supply Chain. Read the new version (pdf, 550 Kb).