As the dust settles on Pride Month, Michael Stevens investigates the parent company of Auckland Pride’s principal partner and believes they have teamed up with a bad cookie.

In November 2022, Auckland Pride announced that Oreo had become a “principal partner” for the 2023 festival.

Oreo is owned by Modelez International, a vast multi-national with a huge range of products and interests across the world, and it has come in for a lot of criticism over its practices around forced child labour in African cocoa plantations, as well as deforestation in Indonesia through its choice to use palm oil in its products.


Deforestation in Indonesia is an ongoing crisis which is destroying the already vulnerable remaining populations of orangutans.

The use of child labour in African cocoa plantations has resulted in accusations of child trafficking and slavery. Cocoa is, of course, a key ingredient in Oreos. Like a lot of multinationals in this position, they are working to protect their reputation and avoid consumer pushback.

But reports of any substantial changes in these areas appear to be few and tokenistic.

It’s true that Mondelez is a member of The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but many environmental activists accuse this of merely being a front for green-washing.

In October, The Irish Times noted: “Sustainability schemes use auditors like Fairtrade and others to certify ingredients as ethically sourced. However, more than a decade after they were introduced, rates of forest destruction, poverty and child labour in cocoa remain high… The schemes have been much criticised for not committing to paying farmers a living income.”

In January, The Guardian reported: “Browsing the pages Nestlé devotes to its Cocoa Plan, Mars to Cocoa for Generations, Mondelēz to Cocoa Life, or Hershey’s to Cocoa For Good, it seems as if progress is well underway. In reality, though, industry watchdogs agree that little headway has been made on the path to a fair and sustainable cocoa sector.”

It seems odd, with this track record, that Auckland Pride thinks Mondelez is a suitable ‘principal partner’. If you were looking for an ethical investment fund for your KiwiSaver account, you most likely wouldn’t want Mondelez in your portfolio.

You have to wonder what the Green Party MPs who have supported Auckland Pride think of this.

Greenpeace even ran a Dying for a Cookie campaign in 2018 targeting Oreo specifically for its green-washing around the destruction of rainforests that killed orangutans to clear land for more palm oil plantations.

2018 was the same year Auckland Pride went through a crisis around corporate sponsorship (among other issues). Protestors held placards at the Pride Parade stating “Rainbow Capitalism is not your friend” – a message the organisation ultimately supported.

Yet Mondelez, through Oreo, is a prime example of Rainbow capitalism, sponsoring a number of queer organisations around the world. So it is not just green-washing its brands, it’s pink-washing them as well.

This seems like a particularly hypocritical partnership for Auckland Pride, when you consider that at their 2021 AGM, Auckland Pride’s membership passed motions that forbid them from collaborating with WorldPride or negotiating with NZ Police, due to those organisations lacking Auckland Pride’s exemplary moral compass.

So in 2023, where has that compass gone?

Now it’s true, festivals can be expensive things to run successfully, especially when you have staff on significant salaries. But it is hard to avoid thinking Auckland Pride is selling out its ethical credentials by taking money from a corporation with this reputation.

There is no doubt it can be challenging to get sponsorship for community events, and realistically, no massive multi-nationals are going to be squeaky clean in this regard. So it is really a question of what values are you prepared to sell out in the quest for cash?

For an organisation like Auckland Pride that claim to have a kaupapa that includes ‘awareness’, ‘equity’ and ‘sustainability’, I question if selling out was worth it?

This is an opinion piece written by Michael Stevens – a long-time community activist and social commentator, and former Programme Manager for the Rainbow Tick in Aotearoa.