Barry Parkin, head of procurement for Mars and chair of the World Cocoa Foundation, recently acknowledged how much farther current sustainability efforts in the cocoa sector have to go before farmers receive anything resembling a living income.

Speaking at the World Cocoa Conference 2016, he highlighted the need to triple or quadruple farmers' incomes to make cocoa farming an attractive proposition for the next generation.

"We can double or more the yield, we can double the income - which is a good start - but it's not yet sustainable. To get to sustainable we've got to triple or quadruple the income. That's the harsh reality... to get to a living income, a level where farmers are thriving, where the next generation want to be farms, it's a big big step."

- Barry Parkin, Global Procurement Head, Mars

There has been much talk in Fairtrade over the last few years about “scaling up with integrity” or “mainstreaming” – i.e. growing the Fairtrade system by working with big corporate players while also ensuring that the core values and social, economic and environmental standards of Fairtrade are not compromised.

Although there have been some original principles that have fallen by the wayside – the basic Fairtrade proposition has remained the same. It is a product-based certification system, in which all ingredients in a product that can be Fairtrade must be Fairtrade, with guaranteed prices for producers, including a minimum price, a Fairtrade premium and an organic premium, social and environmental standards, and obligations on traders and importers.

Despite the rise of numerous alternative certification systems, Fairtrade has mostly stuck to its guns and kept the same model, arguably the gold standard of ethical certification marks. And a campaigner movement of activist consumers – particularly in the UK – has responded to that gold standard and voted with their wallets.

That now looks set to be shaken up, as Fairtrade International have launched a new business model that gives companies a wider and more flexible range of options for engaging with the Fairtrade system. The model is called ‘Fairtrade Sourcing Programs’ and currently applies to three commodities: cocoa, cotton and sugar.

Fairtrade Maltesers are now available in UK shops, following the announcement that Mars would switch this product line to Fairtrade back in September.

It's an important moment for the Fairtrade movement in the UK, with the three big players that dominate the chocolate market - Kraft, Nestle and Mars - all having converted their flagship confectionery product to Fairtrade.

The last two months have seen two of the biggest chocolate industry players announce major ethical certification initiatives.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar will be Fairtrade certified in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2009, with plans to convert more of their range, and Mars are working with Rainforest Alliance to sustainably source all their cocoa by 2020, starting with Rainforest Alliance certification for the Galaxy bar in 2010.

To put these announcements in context and explore their significance, we put some questions to Mars and Cadbury, and to three external commentators...

Mars has announced that all its cocoa will be "sustainably sourced" by 2020. Mars is working with the Rainforest Alliance to certify at least some of this cocoa. The first product to bear the Rainforest Alliance mark will be Galaxy Chocolate in the UK and Ireland, beginning in 2010. The company will also go on working with UTZ Certified, which is currently preparing to launch its cocoa certification scheme, focusing initially on Cote d'Ivoire.

Like Cadbury's recent announcement that Dairy Milk would be Fairtrade certified by the end of 2009, the news needs to be put in the context of broadly declining and unstable global cocoa supplies. As Fiona Dawson, managing director of Mars UK, told the Financial Times last week: “Cocoa is a volatile commodity. We want to secure our long-term sourcing.”