Raise the bar, Hershey

23 August 2012 – A new initiative by the International Labor Rights Forum asks that Hershey fully commits to ethically sourced cocoa produced under fair labour standards.

The initiative is supported by 41 consumer owned grocer cooperatives and natural food retailers operating 62 stores, who are concerned about carrying the Hershey brands, Dagoba and Scharffenberger, until Hershey demonstrates a clear commitment to being a leader in the movement to end child slave labor on West African cocoa farms.

The campaign follows a July report by the Fair Labor Association that found child labour still is rampant on Ivorian cocoa farms. About 35 percent of the world’s chocolate is grown on small farms in the Ivory Coast. To maximise production, farmers often enlist children as labourers. The US State Department estimates more than 109,000 children work in the cocoa industry under the ‘worst forms of child labor’ and that 10,000 or more are victims of human trafficking and enslavement.

Hershey’s failure to commit to purchase significant portions of ethically sourced cocoa contrasts with the proactive commitments demonstrated by major competitors. Mars and Ferrero, for instance, have committed to ensure 100% of their cocoa supply is ethically sourced by 2020. Nestle is working with the Fair Labor Association to examine its supply chain for child labour. Kraft/Cadbury also has taken steps to certify one-quarter of its Cadbury Dairy Milk bars sold globally as Fairtrade.

Hershey has promised to invest $10 million (€8m) by 2017 in West African cocoa programs, but that breaks out to $2m (€1.6m) per year — a small sum relative to the $10.6m (€8.4m) that Hershey’s CEO, John Bilbrey, was paid in 2011 and the $6.1 billion (€4.8bn) in profits the company posted during the same period.

In comparison, Barry Callebaut, a major cocoa processor and trader, launched a $41m (€32.6m) cocoa initiative in March 2012 to boost farm productivity and improve family livelihoods in key cocoa producing countries. Blommer Chocolate Company, the largest cocoa processor in North America, recently announced plans to invest $45m (€35.8m) in cocoa sustainability efforts by 2020. In 2009, Nestle announced it would invest $110m (€87.4) over a ten year period to boost sustainability initiatives and address child labour in cocoa.

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