First Person

Why our race down Miami Beach helped reveal the truth Behind the Brands

Posted by
Photo: Sarah Kalloch/Oxfam America

Yesterday, on the hot, wind-blown sands of Miami Beach, we organized a race. As the inspiring riffs of “Eye of the Tiger” blared from our boombox, I helped set up a race track, cut gossamer, and plant flags. Then Miami-based Oxfam volunteers Ed, Julian, and Alma donned sweatbands, sneakers, tube socks and t-shirts for their sprint down the beach, while Pua and Marli held signs and cheered them on.

Their passionate voices joined thousands of others from the US and around the world who helped Oxfam launch our Behind the Brands scorecard. The scorecard digs deeper into the policies of the world’s 10 biggest food companies on issues from fair pay to women’s rights, and scores them on what they’re doing well—or could be doing better.

Our focus yesterday was on cocoa, the key ingredient in everyone’s favorite candy and a crop grown by millions of small-holder farmers around the world. Just steps away from our race, at the Fontainebleau Hotel, executives from major sweets companies—including Mars, Mondelez, and Nestle, all featured on the scorecard—met for the National Confectioners Association Annual Conference. While their top brass dined on decadent candy treats, our intrepid group staged the “race to the top” right outside as a reminder for food companies to use their incredible power to help end poverty.

Photo: Sarah Kalloch/Oxfam America

Inside the hotel, various top executives spoke at the NCA Conference. They focused on the future of chocolate—from sustainability to health and wellness to taste.

For Oxfam, the future of chocolate has to include farmers. Cocoa doesn’t grow in luxury hotels on Miami Beach—it grows in Ghana, in Ivory Coast, in Ecuador, in Indonesia. And while cocoa does in fact grow on trees, someone has to plant that tree, nurture it, pick the pods and process them; very hard work that cocoa farmers, many of whom are women, do every day.

Sure, as our race ended to the tune of “Chariots of Fire” we may have looked a tiny bit silly. But our goal was serious: to encourage globally known brands like Mars, Mondelez, and Nestle (makers of products like Crunch, Oreos, M&M’s, and more) to put women cocoa producers first. Just as we raced down that beach yesterday, it’s time for the three of them to start a similar sprint to the top of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands scorecard, and use their power to support the communities they source from worldwide.

Photo: Sarah Kalloch/Oxfam America Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+