Hershey Issues First CSR Report, but Its Cocoa Sourcing Still Criticized

The Hershey Company is America.  The world of chocolate has changed since Milton Hershey founded the company, which was at first the subsidiary of a caramel manufacturer, in the 1890s.  More companies are in this crowded and competitive market, and foodies may spurn those iconic flat bricks of cocoa mass, but Hershey is still the largest chocolate company in the United States. Its amusement park in the eponymous town is a venue closely resembling Willie Wonka’s factory.  Its greatest innovation, the Hershey’s Kiss, is over a hundred years old and is still in production, with 80 million conical drops produced every day.

Hershey has had its share of challenges, especially in 2008 when reports claimed that the company replaced cocoa butter with vegetable oil.  Like many of its competitors, Hershey’s has been subjected to complaints over the sourcing of its products’  ingredients.  To address those concerns and other issues, the Pennsylvania-based company has issued its first corporate social responsibility (CSR) report.

Released on Monday, the report is a solid first step.  Compared to the CSR reports of other companies, it is heavy on platitudes and has a laundry list of what the company says it is going to do, rather than what it has done on the CSR front—but in fairness, much of the tone is the result of issuing a CSR report for the first time.

Highlights in Hershey’s inaugural CSR report include:

  • Future goals include the reduction of the company’s total greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption from 2008 levels, both by 15% in 2011.
  • Improved energy efficiency from initiatives such as the use of methane that is a byproduct of its food processing, and using it as fuel for some of its facilities’ energy needs.
  • A reduction in truck hauls, idle time, and the implementation of a rapid unloading program has saved Hershey hundreds of thousands of dollars and CO2 emissions.
  • Increased recycling across the firm’s operations, from its products’ packaging to dealing with electronic waste more proactively.  Hershey has also reduced and streamlined some of its packaging to its products’ weight and therefore, save on shipping fuel.
  • A pledge to use palm oil from suppliers that belong to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
  • Its commitment to using more sustainably sourced cocoa in its product line.

Not everyone is thrilled, especially with that last point.  Several NGOs attacked Hershey for a lack of commitment to fair-trade cocoa and not making more of an effort to stop child slavery in the cocoa trade.  For now, Hershey points to its Dagoba line of chocolate in its insistence that has made improvements–but critics claim the company is a laggard compared to its competitors.  It’s understandable: quotes like this use many words without really saying anything:

As the largest chocolate producer in the United States and one of the largest in the world, the well-being of the global cocoa supply chain is of vital importance to us. Even as we seek to assure a continuing supply of high-quality cocoa, we embrace our responsibility to ensure that the cocoa we buy is grown and harvested in a sustainable manner.

Expect next year’s CSR report to offer more transparency.  But for now, this is a move in the right direction.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

2 responses

  1. I may have completely missed something, but nowhere is there reference to FAIR TRADE. I suppose that’s too big of a can o’ worms for Hershey.

    The dirtiest part of the chocolate game today is slavery (that’s right, SLAVERY). A good primer would be the book BITTER CHOCOLATE by Carol Of. Shocking.

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