The chocolate giant says it will meet an earlier pledge to source 100% mass balance certified on 1 January 2014, a year ahead of schedule. But it has also placed fresh demands on suppliers to independently verify that its palm oil sources:
- Do not contribute to deforestation or the destruction of wildlife habitat
- Do not clear high carbon stock forests
- Do not contribute to peat land expansion
- Operate in compliance with local laws and regulations
"All of our suppliers are now aware of our new requirements and we will be working with them to achieve these standards by the end of 2014. Those who cannot achieve these standards will no longer be palm oil suppliers to The Hershey Company," Jeff Beckman, head of corporate communications at Hershey told ConfectioneryNews.
"We recognize the importance of third-party verification and we are currently working with intentionally recognized NGOs on a process for third-party validation," he continued.
Frank Day, vice president of global commodities said: “Our move to source 100 percent traceable palm oil is the latest step forward in our efforts to ensure we are sourcing only sustainably grown palm oil that does not contribute to the destruction of wildlife habitat or negatively impact the environment.”
Greenpeace: Traceablity not equal to mass balance
Areeba Hamid, senior campaigner for Greenpeace, said that while Hershey's commitment on peat and High Carbon Stock (HCS) and High Conservation Value (HCV) was a good step forward, she was unclear whether the timeline for mass balance as well as the new supplier requirements were to be met in 2014.
"Any effective policy must articulate timelines and a clear action plan," she said. "More importantly, traceability is not equal to mass balance. The RSPO's mass balance standards still can't ensure that the palm oil that Hershey's sources is free from forest destruction. Hershey's must explain to their consumers how they intend to move beyond the RSPO to completely break their links with forest destruction."
Under the RSPO definition of a mass balance system, palm oil from certified mills is mixed with conventional palm oil during transport and storage and companies cannot sell more sustainable palm oil than they have purchased.
Hershey's Jeff Beckman confirmed that the deadline for suppliers to meet its new four-pronged standards on palm oil was the end of 2014.
Greenpeace said that recent palm oil pledges from manufacturers and suppliers had tended to include an entire document detailing a clear action plan and milestones. It claimed that Hershey lacked such a document.
"With Wilmar's recent commitment to No Deforestation, and consumer companies like Ferrero clearly specifying when they will achieve traceability, Hershey's clearly needs to move beyond the RSPO and step up to the challenge," said Hamid.
Hershey said it would report progress in its annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report.
WWF rates Hershey’s palm oil commitments
The US chocolate leader scored 10 out of 12 in the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) 2013 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard, putting it ahead of Mars, Barry Callebaut and Mondelez International, but behind Nestlé and United Biscuits.
Hershey uses around 20,000 metric tons of palm oil a year, according to the scorecard.
Greenpeace wrote to palm oil users including Hershey earlier this year urging the firm to go beyond Roundtable for Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO) standards, which it said only prohibited deforestation of “primary forests” leaving smaller forests and the habitats of threatened species vulnerable.
“Hershey’s responded to us in the same RSPO language as most of the other companies. They continue to rely on the RSPO to sever the link between their chocolates and deforestation. But it’s clearly not enough and they need to move beyond the RSPO if they are serious about no deforestation,” Greenpeace previously told this site.