North America’s biggest chocolate manufacturer caves to domestic and international pressures and promises to go Fair Trade.
West Africa grows around 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, and for all that supply, certified Fair Trade cocoa accounts for less than 5% of that. The Hershey Company is the largest manufacturer of chocolate in North America. Because of their need for mass quantities of cocoa beans, the company has been under scrutiny for the source of all those cocoa beans.
Over the years, the company has been the subject of many campaigns and petitions protesting their use of African cocoa suppliers that rely on child labor. Many of the children have been trafficked into labor, sometimes even sold by family members. On American soil, Hershey’s is marketed as the ultimate family friendly corporation. Hershey chocolate bars are almost as synonymous with American life as apple pie. Hershey’s family friendly resorts, amusement park and chocolate theme rides were a stark contrast to the company’s support of cocoa beans harvested and processed with child labor.
The company announced earlier this year that they would be ditching the slave- and child-labor in two of its lines of chocolate, and at the beginning of October Hershey announced that it will be using only 100% certified cocoa by the year 2020.
At the same time they hope to accelerate programs in West Africa to eliminate child labor. In a press release, Hershey stated that they would be using independent auditors to ensure that their cocoa reaches the stringent fair trade international standards. These auditors will inspect not only for the recognized standards of fair labor but also environmentally friendly farming practices.
J.P. Bilbrey, president and chief executive officer, The Hershey Company said:
“Consistent with Hershey’s values, we are directly addressing the economic and social issues that impact West Africa’s two million cocoa farmers and families. Expanding the use of certified cocoa across our iconic chocolate brands while working with public and private partners, demonstrates Hershey’s responsible sourcing practices. I am confident that we can make a substantial difference in West Africa by 2020.”
Hershey claims that it won’t only be buying certified cocoa. The company plans on working with the local West African governments and agencies to bolster local literacy and health programs. In the Hershey press release they stated that they will be funding the construction of village schools, creating mobile phone messaging for farmers and working with farmers to implement modern farming and pest control methods that are environmentally sound. Hershey will be working with several international and domestic organizations like the US Department of Labor and the United Nations.
Hershey hopes that once the transition has been made, that more chocolate manufacturers will follow suit. The millions of dollars they have promised to develop programs to educate and protect children in West Africa would go a long way to combating the illegal labor that harvested and processed their cocoa beans. Hopefully their wiser investment in cocoa and the West African community will help turn the tide away from child trafficking and child labor. The North American and international eyes will be watching.
Image credit: Creative Commons photo by trustypics