Letter to the Editor: Response from The Hershey Company

By The Daily

I saw Alisa Patience’s recent letter titled, “Boycott Hershey’s and Child Slavery.”  I wanted to share a broader perspective about the issue and what we at Hershey are doing about it.

First, Alisa’s statement that “Hershey’s has children as young as five working for them” is simply not true.  We do not own or operate any cocoa farms in West Africa or anywhere in the world. Most of the cocoa in the region is grown on family farms managed by local farmers.

However, with 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply coming from West Africa, there are entire communities in that region dependent on this crop. Illegal use of child labor by some cocoa farmers can occur when poor economic and social conditions exist, which can lead to children working unwillingly under deplorable conditions that deprive them of their freedom and opportunity for education.

At Hershey, we are committed to eliminating any illegal and abusive forms of child labor. We cannot tolerate the unacceptable forms of child labor that continue to exist in cocoa-growing regions. Yet, we recognize this is an enormous challenge well beyond the ability of a single organization to solve. Because these issues are deeply rooted in complex, systemic circumstances that are not easily reversed, they are best addressed through large-scale, multi-stakeholder efforts to change the circumstances that contribute to these inexcusable human and labor rights violations.

As part of our commitment to eliminating illegal labor from our supply chain, we continue to build and accelerate our programs. Among the steps we’ve taken:

. Hershey committed in 2012 to use 100% certified and sustainable cocoa in its products worldwide by 2020. Certification programs include strict regulations for cocoa farms, which prohibit child labor that violates ILO conventions. These programs involve verification from independent authorities that help mitigate the conditions leading to illegal child labor.  In 2016, we sourced 60% of the cocoa we used globally from certified and sustainable sources and we will hit 75% by the end of this year.

. Hershey is a founding member of CocoaAction, the industry-wide collaboration that trains and delivers improved planting material and fertilizer to cocoa farmers. It aims to strengthen communities through education, illegal child labor monitoring and women’s empowerment.

. Hershey’s Learn to Grow programs throughout Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria provide thousands of cocoa farmers with resources and education that address both direct and indirect causes of illegal child labor. The programs also include building health clinics, primary schools and community and farmer training centers which strengthen communities and help direct children toward an education rather than field work.

. CocoaLink, a technology program created by Hershey and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), educates farmers by sending information about agricultural and labor best practices from cocoa experts to farmers via mobile text messages. The program’s focus areas include improving gender equality and raising awareness about labor rights issues, including illegal child labor. The program is now managed by the Ghanaian government.

. Hershey is partnering with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), a leading organization promoting and implementing child protection systems in the cocoa industry. ICI is implementing Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) programming in five Hershey-sponsored cocoa communities, including the formation of local Community Child Protection Committees, community-based training on the definitions of illegal child labor and active monitoring of potential cases of illegal child labor. Our intent is to learn from these five communities for potential future expansion across Hershey’s cocoa supply chain.

. Hershey continues to provide funding, expertise and resources to assist with the construction of schools in cocoa-growing communities so that more children have an opportunity to obtain an education.

The expansion of our partner-led farmer training programs over the years and the rapid progress we have made since 2012 toward our commitment to source 100% certified and sustainable cocoa are significant achievements. But we recognize certification alone will not fully solve the entrenched social and economic challenges that contribute to the use of illegal child labor. To help create a bright future for young people and communities in cocoa-growing regions, we will continue to invest and innovate in this work alongside governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private foundations and activist groups.

Our programs and activities reflect continued expansion of initiatives over the past seven years that focus on directly addressing the long-embedded challenges in the West Africa cocoa supply chain that perpetuate abusive labor practices.

As a founding member of the World Cocoa Foundation, we are also greatly encouraged by their coordinated efforts on a program for members called CocoaAction. Hershey has worked to ensure our cocoa sustainability programs complement and support the broader goals of CocoaAction. We believe this will greatly advance our mutual commitment to end illegal child labor.

I hope these details provide a more complete picture of the labor challenges in the cocoa regions and what Hershey is doing to help address the issue.

Jeff Beckman
Director, Corporate Communications
The Hershey Company
[email protected]
100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey, PA 17033