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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Hershey's Commits to 100% Certified Cocoa By 2020

The Hershey Company announced on October 3, 2012 that 100 percent of its cocoa will be from certified sources by 2020. As the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, the company's commitment could significantly expand the use of certified cocoa by other chocolate manufacturers, the company stated in a press release.

Currently, less than five percent of the world's cocoa supply is from certified sources.

Hershey's also announced that its Scharffen Berger brand will obtain all its cocoa from certified sources by the end of next year, an announcement that came just a day after Whole Foods announced that it would be dropping Scharffen Berger over child labor issues.

Whole Foods was recently called out for not acting to pressure Hershey's so the near-simultaneous announcements don't appear to be a coincidence. One wonders if Hershey's big commitment move will be enough to win back Whole Foods.

"Consistent with Hershey's values, we are directly addressing the economic and social issues that impact West Africa's two million cocoa farmers and families," said J.P. Bilbrey, president and chief executive officer, The Hershey Company. "Expanding the use of certified cocoa across our iconic chocolate brands while working with public and private partners, demonstrates Hershey's responsible sourcing practices. I am confident that we can make a substantial difference in West Africa by 2020."

In addition the certification commitment, Hershey's pledged to accelerate its programs that help stop child labor in West Africa, where 70 percent of the world's cocoa supply is grown. As the company increasingly uses certified cocoa, it will continue to support the local programs with "African partners, national governments and development agencies." The West African programs supported by Hershey's include constructing schools, cell phone farmer messaging literacy and health programs and training farmers in modern agricultural techniques. Hershey's target is to reach over two million West African cocoa villages through its programs and public-private partnerships, as it stated in its press release.

Hershey's is vague on the certification details

There is only one problem with Hershey's announcement.The company did not specify what type of certification it will obtain for the cocoa. Instead, Hershey's stated the certified cocoa will be "be verified through independent auditors to assure that it is grown in line with the highest internationally recognized standards for labor, environmental and better farming practices."

There is a good chance the cocoa will be certified through Rainforest Alliance (RA), which would be great. Earlier this year, the company announced that its Bliss chocolate line will be RA certified and available by the end of 2012. Hershey's Dagoba organic chocolate is already RA certified.

The Raise the Bar Hershey coalition, which has consistently challenged Hershey's to use fair trade certified cocoa, is pleased with the company's announcement, which says a lot. In a statement, the coalition said that it "welcomed" the announcement that it will use only certified cocoa by 2020. However, the coalition urged the chocolate company to "go 100 percent fair trade with incremental benchmarks." The coalition consists of three organizations: Green America, Global Exchange, and the International Rights Labor Rights Forum.

Fair trade certified chocolate ensures that cocoa farmers receive a fair price and strictly prohibits child labor, according to Fair Trade USA. If Hershey's is serious about stopping child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa, then the certification it seeks for its products will be fair trade.

Photo: Flickr user, mhiguera

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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