Celebrating Employee Sustainability Engagement…With Trees!

Celebrating Employee Sustainability Engagement…With Trees!

by Carly Greenberg, Manager, ESG Reporting

Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 9:00am

CONTENT: Blog

This Arbor Day we are doing something we have never done before. We will pay for our employees to plant trees…at their own homes.

Hershey has had a steady partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation for four years. During this time, we have sponsored the planting of nearly 700,000 trees in forests near our operations such as the Chesapeake Bay Forest in Pennsylvania and the Fishlake National Forest in Utah near one of our major distribution centers.

This year, we will continue these efforts but have also carved out a portion of our annual giving budget to the Arbor Day Foundation to allow our employees to personally get involved in the action. This is because at the end of this month, roughly coinciding with Arbor Day, we will be celebrating our one-year anniversary of our employees’ broader participation in our company’s sustainability efforts. Approximately a week before Arbor Day in 2020, Hershey officially launched Green Teams.

Green Teams represent groups of passionate Hershey employees from all levels that come together out of a shared interest in environmental sustainability and in improving sustainability at Hershey and in the communities where we operate. Among our employees, Green Teams have helped to:

  • Educate: Spread awareness of Hershey’s sustainability initiatives and challenges and share best practices
  • Engage: Foster feelings of inclusion and ownership in creating Hershey’s sustainability future
  • Activate: Harness employee passion and energy to identify and implement improvements to tangibly impact Hershey’s sustainability

The energy within our Green Teams is super vibrant and Green Teams have quickly become one of my favorite aspects about working at Hershey. But don’t let the fact that this work is fun distract you from the fact that Green Teams represent an essential ingredient to Hershey’s ability to meet our future sustainability goals.

About six months before the founding of Green Teams, I was trying to solve a problem. Hershey had tasked me with the responsibility of setting our company’s new Science Based Target (SBT). At the same time, I was also evaluating the fate of our earlier goals. Prior to our SBT, Hershey had a suite of goals called the 25 by 25 commitment. These goals sought to cut greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and waste by 25% by 2025 compared to 2015, as well as to reduce packaging by 25 million pounds on that same time frame. When I joined Hershey, these goals were about four years old and, except for our packaging reduction goal, which we achieved years ahead of schedule, our progress towards them was glacial at best. While setting goals is nice, achieving them is even better. We knew early on that a science-based commitment would require more ambitious action than our existing goals at the time, and the existing pace of progress was simply not going to cut it.

What was the missing ingredient? Our employees!

Spend anytime at Hershey and it is apparent that employees are our biggest activators and are the key to the successful achievement of any goal our enterprise seeks to complete. Our 25 by 25 goals were languishing because they were not broadly socialized within the organization. Meanwhile, through conversations with co-workers I could see that people had a ready appetite to be involved in this work. So, quite simply, we empowered them to be involved!

A year in, Hershey now has seven official Green Team chapters at domestic and international locations and more than 2,000 employees who consider themselves to be Green Team members. These teams have already driven substantial progress on Hershey’s intentions to become a more sustainable company. They have brought in external experts to educate us on how climate change will impact our company and employees, they have challenged employees to be mindfully aware of their single-use plastics footprint, they have brought employees out into the community to do streambed restoration, and they have provided energy and synergy for our new efforts within our manufacturing plants to participate in the ENERGY STAR ® Challenge for Industry—just to name a few.

We are continually in awe of what our employees can accomplish and are excited to see what the future will bring.

As a thank you to the incredible momentum and progress they have brought to our sustainability efforts, this opportunity from the Arbor Day Foundation to gift employees a tree for their home seemed like a natural way of showing our gratitude. These trees will be local species based on the employee’s individual locations. Starting on Earth Day (4/22), U.S. employees can sign up for a tree that will be delivered to their homes for the Fall planting season. We hope that as these trees take root and grow, so will our employees’ enthusiasm for supporting our sustainability efforts continue to flourish!