The Hershey Company announced this week that it exceeded its goal for sourcing certified cocoa. Hershey, the largest chocolate maker in the U.S., sourced 18 percent of cocoa globally in 2013 from certified farms. That is almost double the 2013 goal of 10 percent, which means one-fifth is being sourced through sustainable practices.
Hershey is on track to meet its goal of 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020, the goal it set in 2012 after much pressure by the advocacy group, Green America. The company’s next milestone is to reach between 40 and 50 percent by 2016. The certified cocoa is verified by independent auditors, including UTZ Certified, Fair Trade USA and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Hershey also announced that its Scharffen Berger brand reached its goal to source 100 percent certified cocoa by the end of 2013. All Scharffen Berger brands are now Rainforest Alliance Certified. Hershey’s Bliss chocolates and Hershey’s Dagoba organic chocolate reached the same goal in 2012.
“We are proud of our substantial progress in our first year of this important initiative to advance the well-being of cocoa-producing communities,” said Terence O’Day, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer for Hershey’s. “This is just one of many initiatives through local NGOs, national governments and development agencies to address child labor and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers around the world. These projects include leadership and economic training for women farmers, literacy, health and farm safety programs as well as the recent opening of a Hershey-supported primary school in western Ivory Coast.”
Hershey’s announcements are part of the company’s commitment to support sustainable cocoa farming through its 21st Century Cocoa Sustainability Strategy - a plan to help cocoa communities grow sustainable cocoa. It includes the CocoaLink mobile phone program, launched in 2011 in Ghana and expanded into the Ivory Coast in 2013. The program uses mobile technology to give free agricultural and social training to rural cocoa farmers. More than nine in 10 Ghanaian cocoa farmers have access to mobile phones. Since its launch, the program has registered over 16,000 cocoa farmers in 550 communities in Ghana and provided over 300,000 text messages in the local language, plus addressed illiteracy through literacy training in communities.
The strategy also includes the Hershey Learn to Grow farmers and family development center. Launched in 2012 in Assin Fosu in Ghana’s central cocoa region, the center helps farmers improve crop yields and quality which, in turn, improves their lives. It improves the lives of 1,250 cocoa farm families, impacts more than 6,000 community members, and brings high-tech learning to rural farm villages. For example, Hershey launched a distance learning program allowing about 80 middle school students in classrooms in Hershey, Pa. and Assin Fosu to connect.
The technology is also used for training cocoa farmers on better practices. West Africa, namely Ghana and the Ivory Coast, produces 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. According to Hershey, West African cocoa farmers produce less cocoa per hectare than cocoa farmers in Asia or the Americas. Child labor is also common in West Africa. A Tulane University report on child labor in the cocoa sector in the Ivory Coast and Ghana found that 25 to 50 percent of the children in households in both countries work on cocoa farms. Children working on cocoa farms are “frequently involved in hazardous work,” the report states. The U.S. Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in the Ivory Coast alone work under the “the worst forms of child labor,” and about 10,000 are trafficked or held as slaves.
Image credit: Andy Melton