Hershey "lags behind" rivals on labour, social and environmental standards, report claims

Hershey "lags behind" rivals on labour, social and environmental standards, report claims

NGOs and human rights groups have accused Hershey of sourcing cocoa from African farms that use forced and child labour in wide-ranging criticism of the US chocolate giant's record on corporate and social responsibility.

A report from Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and Oasis USA said yesterday (13 September) that Hershey had not ensured its cocoa supplies from west Africa were not from areas "tainted" by labour rights abuses.

The report also accused Hershey of "a lack of transparency" in identifying its cocoa suppliers and claimed that the company had "no third-party certification".

Hershey, the report argued, "lags behind its competitors" when it comes to purchasing cocoa certified to meet certain labour, social, and environmental standards. The pressure groups also pointed to the presence of one Fair Trade Certified product in Hershey's portfolio - the Dagoba line the company acquired in 2006.

The Hershey's Kisses and Reese's maker needed to "take immediate action" to eliminate labour practices that violated international human rights on forced, child and trafficked labour by tracing its supply chain back to cocoa farms and source from farmers who can prove they do not use forced and child labour.

"Children continue to suffer in slavery as Hershey's profits soar," said Paul Hong-Lange, executive director of Oasis USA. "Hershey can and must do its part to end human trafficking on cocoa farms in West Africa."

The report, timed to coincide with the publication of Hershey's first corporate and social responsibility report, also called on the company to take use 100% Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans for one of its five top-selling chocolate bars by 2012 - and to commit that the "majority" of cocoa across its products will be certified Fair Trade Certified by 2022.

"Hershey demonstrates a commitment to children in the US by funding the Milton Hershey School," said Global Exchange Fair Trade Director Adrienne Fitch-Frankel. "They can demonstrate the same concern for children and families in African communities that farm their cocoa by using Fair Trade Certified cocoa for their chocolates."

When contacted by just-food, a Hershey spokesman pointed to the company's comments on cocoa sourcing in its new CSR report.

The report reads: "As the largest chocolate producer in the United States and one of the largest in the world, the well-being of the global cocoa supply chain is of vital importance to us. Even as we seek to assure a continuing supply of high-quality cocoa, we embrace our responsibility to ensure that the cocoa we buy is grown and harvested in a sustainable manner. That means encouraging a cocoa supply chain that provides adequate incomes to small cocoa farmers, advances efforts to promote responsible labour in cocoa-farming communities, promotes gender equity and protects and preserves the environment."

In response to questions about Hershey's plans on issues like Fair Trade certification, the spokesman again pointed just-food to its CSR report.

In the report, Hershey said it would "advance and fund programmes that enhance livelihoods and ensure fair labour practices in cocoa-growing regions" as well as "promote partnerships with cocoa-sector companies, NGOs and governments to develop and implement agreed-to milestones to measure progress in sustainable cocoa farming by 2011".