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Pressure mounts on Hershey to source 100% sustainable cocoa

By Oliver Nieburg , 13-Jun-2012

Hershey has come under pressure from human rights groups to source all its cocoa from certified farms that avoid child labor.

A consortium of labor groups including Global Exchange, Green America and the International Labor Rights Forum sent a letter to Hershey CEO John P. Bilbrey on World Day Against Child Labor yesterday calling for a meeting with Hershey bosses.

Hershey head of corporate communications Jeff Beckman said there was nothing new to add about Hershey's commitment to cocoa sourcing that hasn't already been communicated to ConfectioneryNews.com. (see HERE )

No pledge on 100% certified cocoa

Some Hershey products do use Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa, but the company has not committed to sourcing all of its cocoa from certified farms unlike competitors Mars and Ferrero that have committed to 100% certified by 2020.

“The Hershey Company trails behind its competitors (with a commitment to only certify two lines of its chocolate) and continues to earn billions at the expense of children,” said the labor groups in a release.

The consortium alleged that Hershey was complicit in child labor as it sources the majority of its cocoa from small farms in West Africa where an estimated 1.8m children work.

The groups cited research by Tulane University that found a number of the children working on farms were subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including dangerous working conditions and human trafficking.

The joint request for a meeting with Hershey bosses came yesterday on World Day Against Child Labor, a global effort to raise awareness of the issue of child labor, organized by the UN's International Labor Organization (ILO).

Hershey ‘s certified cocoa

Hershey uses around 135,000 tonnes of cocoa volume annually, according to the 2010 Cocoa Barometer from the Tropical Commodity Coalition. Only two of its products source cocoa from certified farms.

The company recently said that a premium line of Hershey Bliss would go Rainforest Alliance certified. Hershey's Dagoba Organic Chocolate is also produced with cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance certified farms, but was already using certified cocoa through Fair Trade when the brand was acquired in 2006.

Hershey has said that it plans to invest $10m in sustainable cocoa sourcing in West Africa over the next five years.

In the first quarter of 2012, the company recorded $199m in operating profit. The $10m Hershey is investing in sustainable cocoa across five years represents 0.25% of its total profit in Q1 2012.

HIV pupil rejected

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation also voiced its support for a meeting with Hershey executives after a school that the chocolate company funds refused to admit a boy with HIV, calling him a risk to others students. (see HERE )

Hershey previously distanced itself from the issue and have said the school and the chocolate company are two separate entities.

Beckman said today: "The Hershey Company has no role in the school's operations or decisions and has no representation on the school's board."

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