Independents call on Hershey to address child labour

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate

Independent stores press Hershey to tackle child labour
US candy brand Hershey’s faces a fresh campaign demanding that it should embrace fair trade principles and reject the use of child labour.

The initiative is being co-ordinated by the International Labor Rights Forum and is backed by 65 food co-operative retail and natural grocery stores. They include PCC Natural Markets, the largest consumer-owned food co-op in the US, which has 45,000 members.

In a letter to the Hershey Company board of directors, the campaigners state: “We acknowledge Hershey’s recent pledge to ethically source a small amount of the company’s overall chocolate by working with Rainforest Alliance to certify your Dagoba and Bliss lines; however, this does not erase the fact that Hershey’s profits are earned at the expense of children.”

They claim the commitment represents less than 1% of Hershey’s total sales and continue: “Hershey’s apparent unwillingness to commit to purchasing significant amounts of ethically sourced cocoa is puzzling considering that several major competitors have made already significant commitments to buy independently-certified ethical cocoa.

Strong concerns

“Therefore we have strong concerns about carrying any Hershey products, including your Dagoba and Scharffenberger lines, until the Hershey Company demonstrates its commitment to being a leader in the movement for independently certified chocolate, which meets or goes beyond the standards of Fair Trade, instead of just barely keeping pace with its competitors.”

The letter follows a July report from the Fair Labor Association that found child labour is still commonplace in Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) cocoa farms. Hershey has come under fierce fire in the past two years from the Raise The Bar Hershey! Campaign for supporting child labour in the region.

Plans to invest $10m in West Africa

The company has pledged that all the cocoa for its Bliss line of chocolates would be Rainforest Alliance Certified by 2013. It is already sourcing 100% Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa for its Dagoba line and has announced plans to invest $10m in West Africa by 2017 to encourage economic initiatives, reduce child labour and improve cocoa supply.

A spokesman for Hershey said it had created the Hershey Learn to Grow Farm and Family Development Center in Ghana this year, he said. "At the centre, we are delivering training that seeks to double yields and income and improve the living standards of 1,250 cocoa farm families over four years through improved agricultural, environmental, social and business practices that will also address the child labour issue."

Hershey has also launched CocoaLink in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, a scheme delivering information via mobile phone to support farmers. The communications help improve their yields, incomes and standard of living, reduce the need for child labour, and increase the opportunity for their children to attend school and receive an education, said the spokesman.

Improved incomes

"We are currently investing in a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and our industry peers in the $40m, five-year World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) Cocoa Livelihoods Program, organized and implemented with the World Cocoa Foundation," he said. The programme had improved incomes for about 200,000 cocoa farmers and their families in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia by 20-55% and improved labour practices. "We also support WCF's $13.5m, five-year African Cocoa Initiative, which aims to double cocoa productivity for 100,000 farm households and raise per capita income by 150-200%."

Mars and Ferrero have committed to ensure 100% of their cocoa supply is ethically sourced by 2020. Nestlé is working with the Fair Labor Association to examine its supply chain for child labour. Kraft Foods and Cadbury has also taken steps to certify a quarter of its Cadbury Dairy Milk bars sold globally as Fairtrade. 

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