Chocolate giant Hershey has announced plans to use GPS mapping for cocoa farms in Ghana to help farmers better manage their resources as labour groups continue to doubt the company’s commitments to eradicate the worst forms of cocoa child labour.
Hershey’s GPS initiative forms part of its ‘Learn to Grow’ programme in Ghana and is the latest in its $10m investment towards sustainable cocoa sourcing in West Africa over the next five years.
The company however remains tight-lipped on the amount of certified sustainable cocoa it sources as other major players set targets to go 100% certified.
Hershey will work with its partner Source Trust to GPS map the farms of 1,000 participating farmers.
Farmers will receive a field mapping report showing the localisation of their different farms and information such as farm size, farm age, number of trees and varieties, which will allow them to utilise the latest planting, pruning and fertilizer techniques to maximise yield and sustainability.
Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications at Hershey, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “Hershey and Source Trust recognized that most farmers were simply estimating their farm size.
“GPS technology provides accurate results at an affordable cost, enabling us to execute large scale mapping and data collection programs.”
The survey will also look for household risk of inappropriate forms of child labour.
In January, Hershey said its premium line of Hershey Bliss would be Rainforest Alliance certified.
The company recently announced in its Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR) that the brand Dagoba Organic Chocolate would be produced with cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance certified farms.
Dagoba had already been using sustainable cocoa through Fair Trade certification and had done so when Hershey acquired the brand in 2006.
Hershey has not yet committed to sourcing its cocoa from certified farms, unlike some of its peers, such as Mars and Ferrero, which have both set a target to go 100% certified by 2020.
Beckman was asked why Hershey had not set a target, but he simply said Hershey was pleased to be expanding its programmes with the $10m investment over five years.
Among Hershey’s goals for 2012 in its recent CSR was to “better communicate performance on engagement priority to customers and consumers”.
Beckman previously told this site that Hershey “has been very transparent and clear about our plans to address the labour issues in West Africa”.
Asked what percentage of Hershey cocoa volume was certified, Beckman said: “We do not break out volume by brand or product.”
In its 2010 Cocoa Barometer, the Tropical Commodity Coalition said that of Hershey’s 135,000 tonnes cocoa volume, none was certified.
Antonie Fountain, director of STOP THE TRAFFIK Netherlands told this site that his organisation supported Hershey’s $10m investment
“What is entirely unclear, however, is what part of that will actually go into 'cracking down on the worst forms of child labour'.”
“Increasing a farm's productivity is not the same thing as tackling child labour. Unless a significant amount of attention is also placed on the social labour standards on the farms, increased productivity might lead to an increase of child labour, not a decrease,” he continued.
He said that schemes such as the GPS mapping would be no more than “window-dressing” unless Hershey lived up to a promise of eradicating the worst forms of child labour
“There are companies out there that have now made public commitments to ending trafficking in their cocoa supply chain. That is not a different 'approach', it's the difference between being a frontrunner and a severe laggard,” he concluded.