Mission Statement

The Mars Arts and Humanities building was named for Adrienne Bevis Mars and her husband, John, who were the largest donors to Wheaton College in 2000. Adrienne Bevis Mars is a Wheaton trustee as well as an alumna of the class of 1958. Her husband, John Mars, is the former CEO of Mars Incorporated, one of the largest family owned multi-national corporations in the world. In 2001 Wheaton honored John with a commencement citation, which praised his “principles of quality and responsibility.”[i] Over the years the Mars family has been our college’s largest contributor and most likely will be aiding the construction of the proposed science center.

Wheaton College is an institution based upon integrity, honor and global awareness, and our relationship with the Mars Corporation greatly jeopardizes these principles. As the largest chocolate manufacturer in the United States, the Mars Corporation is a very powerful economic entity and greatly impacts the lives of farmers in West Africa. Mars imports most of its cocoa from West African countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The cocoa is grown on commercial farms, and like other primary product exports from developing countries, it is sold at a very low price. In 2002 the U.S. Labor Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development published a report on cocoa farms that stated 284,000 children were working in hazardous conditions such as using machetes and spraying pesticides. Furthermore, 2,500 of these child workers have been trafficked to the farms and forced to work for little compensation.[ii]

Recently there has been public outcry against child labor in West Africa. In response to this vocalization Mars Incorporated has signed two protocols, the Harken-Engel Protocol and the International Cocoa Initiative, intending to stop abusive child labor. These protocols are supposed to ensure the inspection of cocoa producing farms and prevent sub-standard labor conditions. However, the Harken-Engel Protocol, which endeavored to eliminate all forms of abusive child labor by 2005, was a failure. Now the industry claims that it will ensure only 50 percent of the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana are free of child labor by July of 2008.[iii]

Mars Inc. may donate some funds to West Africa, but for a business with annual revenues of 9.7 billion dollars, much more that can be done. According to Global Exchange, an international human rights organization, Mars Inc. has repeatedly refused to pay a Fair Trade price for its cocoa imported from West Africa.[iv] The Fair Trade Labeling Organization currently values cocoa at 150 US dollars per metric ton. Today Divine Chocolate is the largest manufacturer of chocolate to carry a fair trade label, but still only claims 1% of the 60 billion dollar annual profit brought in by the chocolate trade. On its website Mars Inc. may claim that it wants to increase the incomes of cocoa farmers, but by refusing to agree to fair trade prices the corporation prevents this raise and forces the farmers of West Africa to rely on child labor. Simultaneously, the corporation has not taken adequate measures to ensure the effectiveness of the anti-child labor initiatives to which it previously had agreed.

Wheaton College is an affiliate of the Fair Labor Association, a group of companies, colleges and universities that are dedicated to finding “innovative and sustainable solutions to abusive labor conditions.”[v] However, our membership in the FLA directly conflicts with Wheaton’s relationship with Mars Incorporated. By receiving donations from Mars Inc., we are benefiting from the exploitation of farmers and children in West Africa. The Wheaton College Community has a responsibility to address this issue, not only because we accept this money but also because we have the ability to influence the Mars Corporation. Mars Inc. is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and if anyone has the power to create change for the farmers in West Africa it is people such as Adrienne and John Mars.

We are not advocating a boycott of the Mars Corporation’s products nor are we asking Wheaton to refuse its donations. Rather, we believe this important and complex topic should immediately be brought to the attention of students and faculty. As recipients of the money from the Mars family, all members of the Wheaton College community are benefiting from the labor practices of the Mars Corporation. Therefore, we have a responsibility to address this issue and ensure that the principles upon which Wheaton College is based are not in jeopardy.

This process can be an incredibly beneficial and empowering for all involved-Wheaton College, Mars and those in West Africa harvesting cocoa. With Wheaton College applying pressure on the Mars Corporation, Mars will be motivated to act on consumer demands for fair trade chocolate-and not just Wheaton’s demand; broad based consumer surveys demonstrate the vast majority of consumers would prefer that their products be produced under fair trade conditions. Mars can produce a new line of fair trade chocolate, which not only will benefit the bottom line of their corporation, but also will raise the incomes of farming families in West Africa, eliminating the necessity for Child Labor.

Please sign the petition asking the Mars Corporation to agree to Fair Trade. This is an opportunity to affect positive change and improve the lives of millions of human beings.


[i] http://wheatoncollege.edu/CR/CR2001/Honorary/citations.html[ii] http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/af/773pf.htm[iii] http://www.laborrights.org/projects/childlab/cocoa_childlabor_update_May05.pdf[iv] http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/cocoa/mmmars.html

[v] http://www.fairlabor.org

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