Hershey (NYSE:HSY) lags far behind its peers despite a 10-year-old commitment to ending forced child labor in its supply chain.
It’s been 10 years since the nation’s largest chocolate companies signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol and committed to ending child labor in their supply chains by 2005.
Green America, Global Exchange, and the International Labor Rights Forum issued a report that documents progress by most large food companies, with one glaring exception: Hershey, the company which produces such "iconic" brands as Hershey Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Hershey Kisses.
The report, "Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for the Hershey Company," describes Hershey as "the lone holdout" among companies that signed the Protocol ten years ago.
While many of its peers in the sector have publicly committed to sourcing independently certified cocoa to comply with international labor rights standards, Hershey has not.
Hundreds of thousands of West African children continue to work under hazardous conditions on cocoa farms, but Hershey-which sources much of its cocoa from the region-has no measures in place to prevent labor abuses that include child labor.
Because of the company’s failure to adopt such measures, a nationwide Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign has thus far resulted in 50,000 people signing a petition urging Hershey to adopt Fair Trade sourcing practices.
Competitors such as Nestle and Mars have made large commitments to purchase certified cocoa, says the report, and other companies, including Ben & Jerry’s, have made significant strides in sourcing fair trade certified cocoa.
The timing of the report coincides with the publication of Hershey’s annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report. Last year’s CSR report stated a goal of "encouraging a cocoa supply chain that provides adequate incomes to small cocoa farmers, advances efforts to promote responsible labor in cocoa-farming communities, promotes gender equity, and protects and preserves the environment."
Hershey was urged to commit to sourcing 100% fair trade certified cocoa beans by 2012 for at least one of its top five selling chocolate bars, and to have a majority of its cocoa across all products be fair trade certified by 2022.
"It’s increasingly clear that consumers care where the products they buy are from and how they were made," says Elizabeth O’Connell, Fair Trade Campaign Director at Green America. "Every day that Hershey delays in instituting Fair Trade certification to prevent forced labor in its products is a day that tarnishes Hershey’s image as ‘America’s Chocolate Company’."