Nestle is to certify its flagship confectionery brand Kit Kat as Fairtrade in the UK and Ireland - following a similar move from rival chocolate maker Cadbury earlier this year.

The move, announced today (7 December), is the latest in a growing number of initiatives from the world's chocolate makers as they seek to position their products as more 'ethical'.

Nestle's move on Fairtrade comes as the Swiss food giant looks to invest some GBP65m in its cocoa supply chain over the next ten years to address "key economic, social and environmental issues facing cocoa farming communities", including education, social conditions - and improving cocoa yields.

Fairtrade certification of Kit Kat will "facilitate long-term direct commitments to cocoa co-operatives including additional payments for the farmers to invest in community or business development projects of their own choice, such as improving healthcare and schools", Nestle said.

The first Kit Kats to carry the Fairtrade mark in the UK and Ireland will be the four-finger version from January.

"Nestle sells more Kit Kats in the UK than anywhere else in the world and I am delighted that ... Kit Kat - our leading confectionery brand - will now be Fairtrade certified in the UK and Ireland," said Nestle Confectionery managing director David Rennie.

"UK consumers are increasingly interested in how we source and manufacture their favourite products and certifying our largest and most iconic brand is one of the ways in which we are committing to improving the lives of as many cocoa farming families as possible. Over 6,000 Ivorian farmers will benefit immediately as a result of today's announcement."

Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, welcomed Nestle's plans. "Mainstream brands such as Kit Kat bring the critical mass that is needed to tip the balance of trade in favour of disadvantaged cocoa farmers," Lamb said.

Cadbury started selling Fairtrade Dairy Milk in the UK and Ireland in July and will roll out the bars into Canada next year. 

Mars Inc., meanwhile, has teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance to use only "sustainable" cocoa in its products by 2020.

Alongside these initiatives, Cadbury, Ferrero and Nestle have made moves to use more "sustainable" palm oil in their confectionery products.