Boycott Hershey Update

hershey's chocolate against white backgroundAfter nearly 400 Mommy Greenest readers signed a petition urging Hershey to speed up its goals of certifying cocoa production and eliminating child slavery, the company responded quickly. I called Hershey yesterday, expecting to confirm receipt of the petition, which I had mailed less than two weeks ago. But within a few hours of leaving a message for CEO John Bilbrey, I received a lengthy email from their consumer relations department, which shared some things I didn’t know about the chocolate behemoth. Let me tell you, I was surprised.

After 400 Mommy Greenest readers petitioned for a Hershey boycott to stop child slavery, the company responded quickly. Let me tell you, I was surprised.

First of all, I had no idea of the impact that the company’s new BLISS line, which launched in December 2012 and is made with fair(er) trade Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa, has had on Hershey’s. The rep reported that:

18 percent of all the cocoa we sourced globally in 2013 was certified, nearly double our original goal. We are scaling our global cocoa supply chain to 100 percent certified cocoa faster than any other global chocolate company in the world. With nearly one-fifth of cocoa now sourced through sustainable practices, Hershey is on track to meet its goal of sourcing 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020.

She also shared that Hershey is now in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, in the $40 million, five-year World Cocoa Foundation Livelihoods Program, which aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of 200,000 cocoa farmers and their families in Africa.

Finally, the email referenced the Hershey Learn to Grow Farm and Family Development Center in Ghana, which reportedly improves the living standards of 1,250 cocoa farm families in that area—tackling the child labor issue as well.

This all sounds amazing. But weirdly for this socially connected world, I can’t find any pictures or information online about these projects except press releases.

Am I being paranoid that this makes me a little suspicious? Or has Hershey really turned their ship around?

 

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Comments

  1. You have every reason to be suspicious. Corporations like Hershey’s are masters at making it look like they care or are doing something when in reality they are doing very little sustainable or substantial to change. Also I have noticed many companies are doing these off-shoot brands like Hershey’s bliss to capitalize on the ethical consumer market while doing very little to change the parent companies regular practices. Child and slave labor in cocoa and other products is widespread and disgraceful. If you really want to avoid contributing to these horrendous practices and still enjoy a delicious piece of chocolate there are a lot of great companies out there (Divine, Endangered Species, Equal Exchange just to name a few). Also so learn more about contemporary slavery check out http://www.freetheslaves.net or http://equalexchange.coop.

  2. Turned or perhaps turning… perhaps they don’t want to go largely public until they have reached their goal… but that makes no sense either. I’ll be confused along side you.

  3. The phrase “in [partnership with…”, much like “working alongside…” , sounds very impressive while saying absolutely nothing.. I trust Hersheys no at all. I’ll stick with those companies I know care for the earth and the people who inhabit it. Honestly, the chocolate tastes better anyway.

  4. Patti Juarez says:

    Look, if they were doing these great programs, wouldn’t love there be websites etc., to talk about these things? I would think that their PR people would have this online to read about. I smell a rat.

  5. Patti Juarez says:

    Whoops, I was using the dictation feature of my iPhone and the word love should not be in this posting. Sorry , that will teach me.

  6. melissa mc says:

    It is wise to question everything so don’t feel paranoid, Rachel — it is your gut that’s letting you know something is afoot and not exactly “right”…. ;)

    tc and hugs~~

  7. Hi Rachel. I definitely agree with other mamas here that you have every right to remain suspicious. I am a new mom and palm oil campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, and we’ve been working on a campaign for over 6 months to get Hershey’s to source conflict-free palm oil. Conflict Palm Oil is associated with child labor, like the cocoa you were boycotting Hershey’s over. Hershey’s has a supplier code of conduct that states it will not support any child or forced labor, however these codes mean very little unless the company is really pushing on its suppliers and pressing to achieve traceability and verified supplies. Hershey’s is hiding behind its supplier code of conduct. The reality is that they don’t know if there is child labor in their palm oil because they admittedly don’t know their supply. But we are working hard to change this!

    If you want to learn more about our campaign targeting 20 snack food companies using Conflict Palm Oil, you can get more information here: http://ran.org/palm-oil. In the coming months we’ll be launching a new campaign push on some of the biggest, most egregious food companies who are putting Conflict Palm Oil in kids snacks and infant formula. Please stay tuned!

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      This is GREAT information Ashley thank you so much for sharing! I am a big Rainforest Action Network fan so I’ll be following this campaign closely. Thanks!!

  8. Hi Rachel,

    I work for The Hershey Company and had to jump in here after reading your update and these posts.
    First, I’m sorry you didn’t find the voluminous information about our many cocoa sustainability and ethical sourcing programs on our company website. These programs are well-represented throughout the site. You can find information here:
    http://www.thehersheycompany.com/assets/pdfs/hersheycompany/21st_Century-single_page_final.pdf
    and here:
    http://www.thehersheycompany.com/assets/pdfs/hersheycompany/scorecard2012.pdf
    and here:
    http://www.thehersheycompany.com/social-responsibility/marketplace.aspx

    There is more on the site, but I think you get the idea.

    In terms of questions about whether we will really do what we say we are doing, I would point our certified cocoa achievement in just our first year of our commitment to source 100% third-party certified cocoa by 2020. For 2013, we targeted moving our global supply chain to sourcing to 10% certified cocoa among all of the cocoa purchased globally in 2013 (our first year of the 2020 pledge). That was an aggressive target for a large global supply chain. We actually hit 18% last year, nearly doubling our initial target. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/newsroom/news-release.aspx?id=1894137

    When we created the CocoaLink mobile phone technology program to help family cocoa farmers, some questioned if it would really have any impact. We announced the results of a three-year impact study just this week. We learned that the program helped family farmers improve their yields 45.6% in three years, bringing in more income for their families, which helps them to send their kids to school.
    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ume-launches-career-spanning-bing-crosby-catalog-campaign-with-remastered-albums-and-new-collections-to-be-released-march-19-2013-03-18?reflink=MW_news_stmp

    The comment about palm oil and “hiding behind our code of conduct” is curious because in December, we announced we will work with suppliers to achieve 100 percent traceable and sustainably sourced palm oil by the end of 2014. Specifically, our suppliers will be required to independently verify that sources:
    1. Do not contribute to deforestation or the destruction of wildlife habitat.
    2. Do not clear high carbon stock forests.
    3. Do not contribute to peat land expansion.
    4. Operate in compliance with local laws and regulations, including labor and human rights.

    Adherence to these rigorous new standards will be INDEPENDENTLY verified, not just confirmed by us.
    This progressive approach to protecting species, habitats, the environment and people puts us at the forefront of ethical palm oil sourcing commitments among food companies around the world.
    http://unless.philadelphiazoo.org/2014/02/04/hershey-update-commitment-to-no-deforestation-palm-oil/

    In fact, the Palm Oil Consumers Action group, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting species and ethical palm sourcing, added Hershey to their list of “brands we like for using better palm oil,” which you can see here: http://www.palmoilconsumers.com/

    So the reference to palm oil sourcing as possible evidence we aren’t taking decisive and important steps to ensure we are doing the right thing in sourcing palm oil is quite simply off the mark.

    I hope this information helps to clarify and inform about Hershey’s commitment to ethical sourcing.

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jeff! My initial post did not go into the palm oil question, so I’m happy you brought this information to the table. Regarding ethical sourcing, however, my challenge was in finding news sources that had covered those programs–the links that I found were press releases like those you’ve linked to on your site, as well as MarketWatch. Do you have any links you can share that addresses that challenge? Thanks!

  9. Hi Rachel,

    There have been a lot of news stories about our programs during the past two to three years. I’ve put in some links below to just some of these stories. There are a lot more, but I think this is plenty to give you a flavor for the news coverage that has run.

    One other point worth noting, some of these stories may reference a campaign that encouraged Hershey to address child labor and source certified cocoa. It was called “Raise the Bar Hershey.” Their campaign website was http://www.raisethebarhershey.org. You will see that the website has been removed from the internet because the groups behind it have recognized the good work we have done and the progress we continue to make.

    Thanks.
    Jeff

    Hershey to Source 10% Certified Cocoa by Year’s End …
    https://www.environmentalleader.com/…/hershey-to-source-10-certified-…‎

    Mar 25, 2013 – The company also has set benchmarks for reaching 100 percent certified by 2020 as part of its 21st Century Cocoa Plan. Hershey suppliers …

    Hershey ’21st Century Cocoa Plan’ Outlines Commitment To …
    socent.100pct.us/…/hershey-21st-century-cocoa…/31596261414744574…‎

    Mar 21, 2013 – HERSHEY, Pa., March 21, 2013 /3BL Media/ — During the past half-century, The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) has helped family cocoa …

    FoodBev.com | News | Hershey ’21St Century Cocoa Plan’ reveals …
    http://www.foodbev.com/news/hershey-21st-century-cocoa-plan-reveals‎

    Mar 22, 2013 – The Hershey Company has revealed its ’21St Century Cocoa Plan,’ a roadmap for how the company will work to help cocoa communities …

    The Hershey Company Ranks Among ‘100 Best Corporate Citizens …
    http://www.nacsonline.com/…/ND0…‎

    National Association of Convenience Stores
    Loading…
    Apr 15, 2013 – The Hershey Company has been recognized for the first time as one of … In February 2013, Hershey announced its 21st Century Cocoa Plan, …

    Hershey’s ’21st Century Cocoa Plan’ draws praise from advocacy …
    http://www.candyindustry.com/…/85630-hersheys-21st-century-cocoa…‎
    by Crystal Lindell – in 47 Google+ circles

    Mar 27, 2013 – An advocacy group that has long attacked alleged issues in Hershey’s cocoa supply chain finally seems to be pleased with the chocolate …

    ICCR Recognizes Hershey for Keeping its Commitment on …
    http://www.iccr.org/iccr-recognizes-hershey-keeping-its-commitment-sustainab…‎

    Jan 31, 2014 – The largest chocolate producer in North America on track to source 100% … Hershey has committed to sourcing 100% of its cocoa from certified …
    .
    Hershey releases CocoaLink Impact Evaluation in Ghana-Global …
    news.foodmate.com › News › Processed Foods › Confectionary‎

    Hershey has announced the release of The CocoaLink Impact … its 21st Century Cocoa Strategy, which is helping to support Hershey’s goal of …

    Hershey’s Tops Its 2013 Certified Cocoa Goal – Candy and Snack …
    http://www.candyusa.com › Candy & Snack TODAY‎

    Feb 4, 2014 – The Hershey Co. reports that 18 percent of the cocoa it sourced globally in … as part of the company’s 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Strategy.

    Hershey’s and Mars sweeten market for West African cocoa farmers …
    http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/…/hersheys-mars-sweeten-market-cocoa-farmer…‎

    Our 21st century cocoa sustainability strategy seeks to address many dimensions of farmer livelihoods, including productivity, improved …

    Hershey Exceeds 2013 Goal For Certified Cocoa | Reality Sandwich
    https://realitysandwich.com/…/hershey-exceeds-2013-goal-for-certified-c…‎

    The Hershey Company announced that it sourced 18 percent of its cocoa from … cocoa farming through its 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Strategy – a plan to …

    Hershey Exceeds 2013 Goal for Certified Cocoa – Triple Pundit
    http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/…/hershey-exceeds-2013-goal-certified-coc…‎

    Jan 30, 2014 – Hershey’s announcements are part of the company’s commitment to support sustainable cocoa farming through its 21st Century Cocoa …

    Hershey exceeds cocoa goal | Central Penn Business Journal
    http://www.cpbj.com/article/20140131/…/Hershey-exceeds-cocoa-goa…‎
    by Michael Sadowski

    Jan 31, 2014 – The Hershey Co. said this week that 18 percent of the cocoa beans it … of its cocoa sourcing is part of the company’s 21st Century Cocoa …

    Hershey Announced Its “21st Century Cocoa Plan,” A Roadmap For …
    http://www.thestreet.com/…/hershey-announced-its-21st-century…‎
    TheStreet.com
    Loading…

    Mar 21, 2013 – During the past half-century, The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) has helped family cocoa farmers and communities develop more productive …

    HERSHEY, Pa.: Three-Year Study Concludes that CocoaLink …
    http://www.heraldonline.com/…/three-year-study-concludes-that.ht…‎

    The Herald
    3 days ago – Hershey is committed to improving cocoa farming through its 21st Century Cocoa Strategy, which is helping to support Hershey’s goal of using …

    Hershey to assist Nigerian cocoa farmers – African American …
    aaobserveronline.com/?p=3830‎

    Hershey has pledged to use 100 percent certified cocoa in its products … and initiatives that comprise Hershey’s 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Plan, which …

    Hershey Learn to Grow Program Expands to Nigeria
    http://www.foodproductdesign.com/…/hershey-learn-to-grow-program-expand…‎

    Jul 22, 2013 – Hershey Learn to Grow Nigeria is part of a broad range of programs and initiatives that comprise Hershey’s 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability …

    Hershey-Sponsored CocoaLink Program Hits 40K Mark For …
    http://www.theshelbyreport.com/…/hershey-sponsored-cocoalink-program-hits…‎

    Dec 5, 2013 – The CocoaLink program is part of the Hershey 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Strategy, a roadmap for how the company will work to help …

    Sustainability Watch – Andy McCormick, Hershey – Just Food
    http://www.just-food.com/…/sustainability-watch-andy-mccormick-hershey_id…‎
    Apr 3, 2013 – Andy McCormick, Hershey’s vice president, cocoa sustainability, spoke with Ben Cooper about the company’s 21st Century Cocoa Plan and its …

    Hershey embarks on sustainable cocoa sourcing program | Dakota …
    http://www.dakotasoft.com/…/hershey-embarks-on-sustainable-cocoa-sourcing…‎

    Mar 26, 2013 – Recently, Hershey unveiled its 21st Century Cocoa Plan, which the company calls “a roadmap” to how the industry leader will help bring …

    Hershey ’21st Century Cocoa Plan’ Outlines Commitment To …
    learningrush.com/…/hershey-21st-century-cocoa…/31596261414744574…‎

    Mar 21, 2013 – Today, Hershey announces its “21St Century Cocoa Plan,” a roadmap for how the company will work to help cocoa communities around the …

    Hershey to Train 20000 Nigerian Farmers to Produce Certified Cocoa
    growinggeorgia.com › News › Jul 2013‎

    Jul 19, 2013 – In Nigeria, Hershey and its partners will provide 20,000 cocoa … and initiatives that comprise Hershey’s 21st Century CocoaSustainability Plan, …

    Hershey Exceeds 2013 Certified Cocoa Goal – WSJ.com
    online.wsj.com/…/PR-CO-20140128-906531.htm…‎
    The Wall Street Journal
    Loading…
    Jan 28, 2014 – Today’s announcement is part of Hershey’s ongoing commitment to support sustainable cocoa farming through its 21st Century Cocoa …

    Hershey ’21St Century Cocoa Plan’ Outlines Commitment … – Reuters
    http://www.reuters.com/…/21/pa-hershey-idUSnBw8ynM4ra+108+BS…‎
    Reuters
    Mar 21, 2013 – Today, Hershey announces its “21St Century Cocoa Plan,” a roadmap for how the company will work to help cocoa communities around the …

    Hershey’s 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Plan | Youth Economic …
    http://www.youtheconomicopportunities.org › Resource Library‎
    Sep 30, 2013 – The Hershey Company introduced their 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Plan under the Youth Enterprise Development track at the 2013 …
    .
    Hershey’s To Use Certified Cocoa Only By 2020 – Huffington Post
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/hersheys-certified-coco…‎
    The Huffington Post
    Oct 3, 2012 – PHILADELPHIA — Candy maker Hershey is vowing to use only certified cocoa for all of its chocolate products by 2020 and accelerate programs …

    Hershey Exceeds 2013 Goal for Certified Cocoa – Triple Pundit
    http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/…/hershey-exceeds-2013-goal-certified-coc…‎
    Jan 30, 2014 – The Hershey Company announced this week that it exceeded its goal for sourcing certified cocoa.

    Hershey ’21St Century Cocoa Plan’ Outlines Commitment to …
    fairtradeusa.org/…/hershey-21st-century-cocoa-plan-outli…‎
    Fair Trade USA
    Mar 26, 2013 – Hershey will combine its responsible sourcing practices to expand the supply of sustainable cocoa while investing in community programs that …

    Hershey Draws Closer to 100% Certified Cocoa Goal
    http://www.foodproductdesign.com/…/hershey-draws-closer-to-100-certified-c…‎
    Feb 3, 2014 – About 18% of The Hershey Company’s globally sourced cocoa was certified in 2013, which put the company on track to meet its final goal of …

    Hershey Exceeds Target for Sourcing Sustainable Cocoa
    dev.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/article3916.html‎

    Feb 7, 2014 – Hershey Exceeds Target for Sourcing Sustainable Cocoa by Robert Kropp. Shareowner engagement by members of the Interfaith Center for …

    Hershey exceeds cocoa goal | Central Penn Business Journal
    http://www.cpbj.com/article/20140131/…/Hershey-exceeds-cocoa-goa…‎
    by Michael Sadowski
    Jan 31, 2014 – The Hershey Co. said this week that 18 percent of the cocoa beans it sourced globally in 2013 was certified through sustainable practices, …

    Hershey Takes Steps To End Child Labor In Cocoa Production
    http://www.thelosangelespost.org/hershey-takes-steps-child-labor-cocoa-produ…‎
    Feb 18, 2012 – However, Hershey announced on January 31 that it is committing to sourcing certified cocoa by Rainforest Alliance for its Bliss line by the end …

    Hershey Exceeds 2013 Goal For Certified Cocoa | Reality Sandwich
    https://realitysandwich.com/…/hershey-exceeds-2013-goal-for-certified-c…‎
    The Hershey Company announced that it sourced 18 percent of its cocoa from certified farms, exceeding its 2013 goal of 10 percent. Now, one-fifth of what …

    Hershey surpasses 2013 cocoa sustainability goal – BakingBusiness …
    http://www.bakingbusiness.com/…/Hershey_surpasses_2013_cocoa_s.aspx?…‎
    Jan 28, 2014 – HERSHEY, PA. — The Hershey Co. on Jan. 28 said 18% of all the cocoa it sourced globally in 2013 was certified, which was better than its …

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Thanks Jeff, unfortunately I am trying to click through to these many articles and keep getting “page not found.” Also these seem to be articles about Hersheys announcements–i.e. press releases–about sustainability programs. Although these all look great, it would be wonderful to see a piece from a news source that actually reports on the program’s implementation in Africa. Could you just share one or two good links? Thank you!

  10. Hi Rachel,
    Sorry the links didn’t work. Let’s try this again.
    The news coverage about our programs has either been stories announcing the new programs we have created and the commitments we have made or stories following up with updates about the progress we’ve made against the milestones we have hit for these programs.

    All of the links below are to actual news reports, not press releases.

    In terms of announcing new Hershey programs, here are some relevant news reports:
    A story from the Associated Press announcing our certified cocoa plans (via Huffington Post): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/04/hersheys-certified-cocoa-2020_n_1938741.html
    From an industry trade about our full sustainable cocoa strategy: http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/85630-hersheys-21st-century-cocoa-plan-draws-praise-from-advocacy-group
    A report from an African America publication covering our plan to extend our programs into Nigeria: http://aaobserveronline.com/?p=3830

    In terms of independent news sources reporting on our program results and our hitting key milestones, here is story about the results of an impact survey for our CocoaLink program: http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86126-cocoalink-weekly-text-messages-linked-to-456-increase-in-yields-of-ghanaian-cocoa-farmers-three-year-study-concludes
    And exceeding our target for third-party certified cocoa in 2013 from a social responsibility blog site: http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/01/hershey-exceeds-2013-goal-certified-cocoa/
    And a socially responsible investors’ site: http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi?sfArticleId=3916

    And finally, an interesting announcement from an interfaith group that had been campaigning against Hershey for a few years but now recognizes and applauds the positive progress we are making: http://www.iccr.org/iccr-recognizes-hershey-keeping-its-commitment-sustainable-cocoa

    I hope these links work. These reflect the types and range of news stories that have covered this topic, from major global news organizations to small, socially responsible bloggers.

    Thanks!
    Jeff

    • Rachel Sarnoff says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share this, I really appreciate it! I’ll take a closer look at these links, and am sure my readers will too. It looks like Hershey is really putting a lot of effort into these initiatives, and I am glad that we were able to use this forum to discuss them!

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