What is more iconic to American chocolate lovers than Hershey’s bars? I have fond memories of eating them as a child, particularly on Halloween. However, I discovered a few years ago that Hershey, the largest producer of chocolate in North America, has a dark side as it lags behind its competitors when it comes to sourcing sustainable cocoa, cocoa not produced by child labor. The past few weeks have brought big announcements from Hershey that are very welcome to me. The latest announcement is that the company achieved zero-waste-to-landfill (ZWL) at three of its manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania, bringing the company’s total ZWL sites to four. The latest Hershey plant achieved ZWL last week, and the West Hershey plant achieved ZWL last October. Two plants achieved ZWL in 2010.
What does zero-waste-to-landfill mean? According to a press release by Hershey, it means that “routine manufacturing waste has been eliminated from landfill disposal.” The four plants recycle about 90 percent of the waste generated, and the rest is converted to energy at nearby waste-to-energy incinerators.
“We are proud of our role as stewards of the environment and of our progress in eliminating waste from our operations,” said Terence O’Day, Senior Vice President of Global Operations at The Hershey Company. “We achieved ZWL at these facilities through a rigorous process of eliminating waste, recycling and converting waste to energy. Our employees understand the importance of sustainability across our company and are working together to reach our reduction goals.”
Hershey commits to sourcing more sustainable cocoa
A few weeks ago, Hershey announced its commitment to source certified cocoa by Rainforest Alliance for its Bliss line by the end of this year. The company will invest $10 million in West Africa over the next five years to “expand and accelerate programs to improve cocoa communities.” Hershey projects that by 2017 its public and private partnerships, including certification for its Bliss line, will directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers, and over two million people in cocoa communities.
J.P. Bilbrey, Hershey President and CEO said that the company wants to “be a leader in responsible business practices and in finding smart ways to benefit cocoa communities.” Bilbrey added that Hershey is “excited and humbled by this opportunity to create positive change in West Africa.”
What exactly does Rainforest Alliance certification mean for Hershey? In order for a farm to achieve certification, it must meet rather rigorous environmental and social standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network. The standards include labor policies. Hershey has long been dogged by criticism that it sources cocoa from farms in West Africa that use child labor. To put it simply, the cocoa used in Hershey’s Bliss line will come from farms that do not use child labor. Hopefully done the line Hershey will achieve certification for its entire line of products that contain cocoa.
Photo credits: Flickr user, mhiguera