Hershey defends commitment on sustainable cocoa

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cocoa farmers Côte d'ivoire

Hershey has committed $600,000 to CocoaLink, which sends SMS messages to farmers providing ethical and practical advice
Hershey has committed $600,000 to CocoaLink, which sends SMS messages to farmers providing ethical and practical advice
Hershey has called attacks on its text messaging tips for farmers program CocoaLink “disingenuous” after a group of NGOs questioned the effectiveness of the project.

Raise The Bar Hershey campaign, led by a group of NGOs including Green America and the International Labor Rights Forum, criticised Hershey for pledging 17% of Mars’ commitment to projects under the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG).

The group also said that CocoaLink, a project that sends cell phone messages with agricultural tips to farmers, only reached 1% of cocoa farmers in Ghana and no farmers in the Ivory Coast.

Hershey: Ivory Coast program due

Jeff Beckman, head of corporate communications at Hershey told ConfectioneryNews.com that his company was set to expand the program to the Ivory Coast, which was not previously possible due to civil war and instability.

“Once a government was in place in Cote d’ Ivoire, we went to work reaching out to the new government to expand CocoaLink and we are rolling it out there this year. “

“Criticizing CocoaLink for not reaching farmers in Cote d’ Ivoire given the realities on the ground at the time the program was created is disingenuous,“ ​he said.

Beckman added that the activist groups were judging Hershey based on a single data point among a range of programs.

Hershey’s total investment and competitor comparisons

Hershey started CocoaLink in Ghana in March 2011 and has committed $600,000 to the program. CocoaLink is the only project from Hershey to fall under the CLCCG.

Hershey’s competitors have pledged more for programs under the CLCGG: Mars ($2.7m), Mondelez ($2.32m), Ferrero* ($1.14m), Nestlé ($1.5m).

Hershey’s total investment on cocoa sustainability is $10m by 2017, which includes other projects outside the CLCCG. The company is also sourcing 100% certified cocoa by 2020, the cost of which is separate from the $10m.

Mondelez has pumped $400m up until 2022 into achieving a sustainable cocoa supply. Mars has pledged $30m a year until 2021, while Nestlé plans to spend CHF 110m ($116) by 2022.


Long-term sustainable cocoa investment

Average per year

Sales in 2012

Yearly pledge as % of sales


$300m (2011-2021)


Around $30bn



$400m (2012-2022)





$116m (2012-2022)


$100.5 billion



$10m (2012-2016)




Mars Chocolate North America President Debra Sandler recently said at an industry conference that avoiding a cocoa shortfall by 2020 “means investing billions not millions”.

CocoaLink was the first corporate program endorsed by the U.S. Department of Labor under its $17m Framework of Action to combat the worst forms of child labor in West Africa.

“This happened because the program is recognized for its innovative use of mobile technology to deliver practical agricultural and social training to rural cocoa farmers to help increase their yields and their incomes, improve their standard of living in the household, reduce the need for child labor, and increase the opportunity for their children to attend school and receive an education,”​ said Beckman.

CocoaLink: progress so far

To date, CocoaLink has enrolled 10,234 Ghanaians into the program, said Hershey, but the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) puts subscriber numbers at 3,720. About 100,000 SMS messages have been delivered so far, according to the WCF.

6,000 more Ghanaian cocoa farmers and community members are due to be reached through a partnership with Cargill announced this month.

Hershey said the program will reach 100,000 farmers in Ghana when fully operational after it hands the project over to the Ghanaian Cocoa Board COCOBOD in 2014.

There are an estimated 720,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana, according to the Institute of Development Studies.

Hershey cocoalink infographic
Source: Hershey

Campaigners say that it is “unclear whether these messages have had any substantial impact on farmers’ lives”.

In its report to the CLCCG, Hershey said that technology was growing in the nation, but noted problems with literacy levels, network coverage in remote areas and power outages preventing farmers from charging their phones.

Hershey also said economic hardship prevented some farmers from accessing agro-chemicals recommended in text messages.

*Ferrero's long-term financial commitment to sustainable cocoa has not been published in its CSR. We have contacted the firm for further details.

**$10m excludes the cost of moving to fully certified cocoa by 2020

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