Hershey has committed to “sustainable cocoa and improving the lives of cocoa communities,” through an announcement in October 2012 to “certify” all cocoa by 2020 and more recently in March 2013 by announcing that it has developed a roadmap for how to do this that includes working with three certifiers, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair Trade USA.
To those already working daily to improve the lives of all farmers, workers, and agricultural communities, good intentions or long-term goals are not satisfying. Fair World Project calls on Hershey to do more and do it more quickly.
Though Hershey’s commitment to open their cocoa supply chains to third party scrutiny is surely a welcome step toward eliminating the worst forms of labor abuse including child labor and poverty, a series of press releases outlining an 8-year timeline does not make Hershey’s chocolates more fair today. The estimated 1.8 million child workers and hundreds of thousands of impoverished farmers in West Africa need real change immediately. As a $6 billion company and the holder of the largest market share of chocolate in the US, Hershey is well-positioned to improve the conditions of workers and farmers quickly and dramatically. Though certification of supply chains may be a lengthy process, there are many steps Hershey can implement right now if they are serious about their commitment to farming communities and sustainability.
- Empower farmers who supply chocolate to negotiate prices, collectively if they wish, that enable them to take care of their families, workers on the farm, and farm sustainably.
- Purchase cocoa on fair trade terms from farmers already on the FLO-Cert registry as fair trade producers who are unable to currently sell all cocoa as fair trade.
- Provide regular, public, and transparent updates on progress made toward goals, not just on future plans.
Increase commitment to the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group for approved programs. This coalition is coordinating programs to end child labor with funding from major chocolate companies, of which Hershey is among the lowest contributors.
Commitment to Fair Trade and Third-Party Certification
It is vitally important to improve the lives of all farmers and workers, not just those undergoing auditing for third-party certification. However, when third-party certification is involved, the marketing message should be clear and consistent.
- Be clear about what a given certification label means and do not make false marketing claims. For example, Rainforest Alliance, a stated labeling program working with Hershey, is not a fair trade certification. Though this may be a suitable option to ensure that the worst labor abuses are eliminated and some environmental standards are upheld, Hershey needs to clearly acknowledge that this is not the same as fair trade. There are no standards or policies ensuring fair payment to small producers or other key fair trade principles.
- Hershey has the ability to positively impact the lives of thousands of farmers and workers by changing its business practices. If Hershey would like to claim some or all products as fair trade, it is not enough to only eliminate the worst abuses. It is essential to work with legitimate fair trade programs that address all principles of fair trade and meet the approval of the network of farmer and worker organizations, consumer advocacy organizations, and fair trade watchdogs working to ensure a high bar for fair trade. Fair World Project maintains our own list of recognized fair trade labels and constantly re-evaluate this based on changes in standards and practices of all programs.
- Consumers and advocates who wish to ensure their chocolate is produced and purchased under fair trade terms already have many options from brands fully committed to fair trade and farmer communities. If Hershey chooses to label and market any brands or products as fair trade, they should choose legitimate, high-bar labels, and also report the percentage of total company revenue that fair trade products represent.
Full Company Commitment
The cocoa industry is notorious for problems throughout the supply chain including poverty wages for farmers, child labor and child trafficking, and other labor rights abuses. Chocolate is also the identity ingredient in many of Hershey’s signature products such as Hershey’s kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Kit Kat bars. Therefore, it is a good and logical place to begin its commitment to social responsibility. However, to be taken seriously as a company committed to social responsibility, farming communities, and the environment, a single-ingredient focus is not enough. There are social and environmental problems associated with many of the ingredients in Hershey products as well as in product production, and a holistic approach is needed both to ensure the well-being of farmers and workers through the total supply chain. This eliminates the possibility of unfair competition with those brands that are in fact ensuring fair prices, working conditions, and sustainability for all ingredients and production practices. In some Hershey products, Hershey’s kisses for example, chocolate is not the top ingredient. Therefore, to establish itself as a company committed to social and environmental justice, Hershey needs to:
- Display a label denoting social or environmental sustainability on the front panel only if at least 50% of the dry weight meets the label standards, even if the labeling program would otherwise allow such use of the label, or clearly list the percentage of total product that is fair trade on label
- Commit to public transparency of wages and practices throughout the supply chains for all ingredients.
- Partner with consumer, worker, and farmer advocates to implement best practices in production, payment, wages, transparency and accountability.
We applaud efforts that pressure Hershey to uphold principles of justice and transparency that will benefit farmers, workers, and consumers without creating unfair competition for companies already implementing such beneficial business practices.
We also support and promote those brands that are already fully committed to farmers and workers through fair trade.