Going Beyond 'Fair Trade' With Hershey's Sustainable Cocoa Strategy

BEATRICE MOULIANITAKI, Head of Cocoa Sustainability
Jun 19, 2020 12:30 PM ET

Originally published by Hershey

More than eight years ago, Hershey made an ambitious, important commitment to reaching 100 percent certified and sustainable cocoa by 2020. As we shared in a recent blog, we fully met that commitment by the start of 2020 – and are excited to keep our sustainability momentum going over the decade ahead.

It's a great feeling to achieve a big goal, especially in these globally challenging times. All of us at Hershey are proud to reach this major milestone, and I take personal pride in the role I have played in pushing this work forward during the past few years. At the same time, we know this global challenge can only be addressed with strategies that go beyond any single approach.

That’s why our commitment to sustainable sourcing goes much further than our focus on certification. Hershey’s $500 million Cocoa For Good program raises our ethical and social responsibility to our cocoa-producing communities by addressing issues like child labor, poverty, lack of education, and climate change. And I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact our programs have on farmers, families and their communities.

Creating sustainable solutions

Our Cocoa For Good strategy uses 100 percent certification as the base for a broader set of investments and changes addressing poverty, malnourishment, environmental health, and income opportunity in rural farming communities in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

We source exclusively from cocoa suppliers certified by organizations such as Fairtrade USA, and Rainforest Alliance. It ensures we’re only working with farmer groups empowered with the resources, administrative systems, and local infrastructures necessary to meet the high standards of certification.

We get to work directly with more professionalized farmer groups that allow farmers to voice their needs and speak up about their challenges from a more powerful, collective negotiating position. This creates more avenues for them to gain access to credit or inputs like fertilizers and crop protections through suppliers and their certifying organizations.

From there, our collaborations with NGOs and others building relationships on the ground in West Africa ensures cocoa farmers receive the tools they need to succeed. Our social investments are driving efforts such as:

  • Enhanced protection, detection and remediation of child labor. We are scaling our Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS), the leading way to detect, remediate and eliminate child labor, across our entire West African cocoa sourcing supply chain by 2025. This includes engaging trusted members of farmers’ own communities in auditing farmers’ work practices and following up with them to find ways to help them lessen their reliance on the work of children (and keep children in school).
  • Education and skills training for adult workers to help address the shortages of skilled cocoa-field laborers that contribute to child labor issues.
  • Specialized guidance on environment- and productivity-related actions to boost farmer income. This includes consultation on things like how to produce more yield on the same plot of farm land, climate–smart farming techniques, agroforestry and crop diversification, as well as training farmers and their families on additional income-generating activities unrelated to farming (with a focus on empowering women to improve their livelihoods).
  • Improvements in West African children’s nutrition, well-being and educational opportunities through investments in school and classroom development, many interrelated initiatives designed to further address the root causes of child labor.
  • Infrastructure improvements in villages and better pathways for farmers to voice their concerns to local community members who can help them access necessary resources or request new systems or tools that can better their circumstances.

I have seen these efforts uplift the incomes of thousands of cocoa farmers in our supplier base as well as their well-being.

Far from finished

Hershey is in a unique position to combine our business focus with our social heart to make a major difference in the lives of rural farmers. And I am proud to be able to lead many of these initiatives happening on the ground in West Africa.

We went all-in with our commitment to sourcing certified and sustainable cocoa because we fully believe that the high standards of certification lead to better, safer farming conditions and environments for rural cocoa workers and their families.

But I also know that high standards are not enough to lift poor farmers out of poverty and sustainability depends on more substantive, systemic changes. We’re happy to be making a major contribution by staying on track with the ambitious sustainability goals of our half-billion-dollar Cocoa For Good initiative.