Hershey's to Combat Child Labour 2012-2017

30/01/2012 - Major chocolatier, Hershey's, is scaling up its efforts to source its cocoa sustainably. At the same time, it is set to be the subject of a Super Bowl ad by labour rights activists concerned about its child labour record.

Chocolate industry heavyweight, Hershey’s, appears to trying to make sure its tagline applies to everyone—even the most vulnerable elements in its supply chain.

Today, the company announced a planned investment of $10 million over the next five years into programmes that combat child labour and improve life in cocoa-producing West African countries.

The Pure Hershey’s campaign was launched in 2008, aiming to associate the brand with feelings of happiness, innocence and simplicity—such as through the tagline that appears on its website, “Pure Hershey’s, Pure Happiness.” Unfortunately, for some West African children, cocoa and chocolate have actually meant the loss of innocence and childhood.

Judy Gearhart is the Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “In West Africa, where Hershey's sources much of its cocoa, over 200,000 children are forced to harvest cocoa beans every year,” she told the Sacramento Bee today, voicing criticism of the company where child labour is concerned.

The Forum, as part of a “brand-jamming” initiative during the Super Bowl, is sponsoring an ad entitled, “Hershey's Chocolate: Kissed by Child Labor.”

An estimated 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown in West African countries, much of it in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, which is the world’s largest producer.

Later this year, the company will purchase all of its cocoa for its Bliss and Dagoba products from farms approved by the Rainforest Alliance, which works to certify farms that are both environmentally and socially sustainable.

By 2017, the company aims to help three-quarters of a million cocoa farmers and two million people from communities in cocoa-producing regions. Improving farming techniques can help farmers increase their output and incomes, making school and health care more accessible. Among the public-private partnerships to be scaled up are the CocoaLink and Learn to Grow programmes in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.

Through these programmes, farmers will receive important information on cocoa-growing and family health via cellphones. They will also be assisted in forming community-based farmers’ organizations and trained in using high-tech devices such as GPS gadgets to better manage their farms.

The Learn to Grow programme will help Ghana meet its National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2015. Rainforest Alliance workers will monitor farms for instances of unsafe, illegal or child labour. This will better enable children to attend school, as is their right under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Very little of the world’s bought and sold cocoa is certified as sustainable—just 2 per cent, says Andy McCormick, Hershey’s VP of Public Affairs. But, on their current upward trend, the number of purchases could reach 20 million by 2020.