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Hershey To Source 100% Certified Cocoa by 2020

The Hershey Company on Wednesday announced it will source 100 percent certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines by 2020 and accelerate its programs to help eliminate child labor in the cocoa regions of West Africa.

The company, which is North America’s largest chocolate maker, has received significant criticism over the last several years for sourcing cocoa from West African farms where child labor is widespread and farming practices are environmentally destructive. Studies estimate 284,000 children work on cocoa farms in West Africa.

West Africa produces about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa. Currently, certified cocoa accounts for less than five percent of the world’s cocoa supply. Hershey said its 2020 purchasing commitment should significantly expand the global supply of certified cocoa. Hershey competitors Mars and Ferrero have already made the same pledge.

Hershey, which does not own cocoa farms, said certified cocoa will 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. 

The company did not specify which cocoa certification it will require and did not announce intermediate targets. However, the company previously stated its Bliss line of chocolates will be Rainforest Alliance-certified and available to consumers by year end. Hershey’s Dagoba organic chocolate is already 100 percent Rainforest Alliance-certified, and today Hershey announced its high-end Scharffen Berger brand will source 100 percent certified cocoa by the end of 2013. 

The announcement came on the same day that Whole Foods Market announced it was pulling the Scharffen Berger brand from its shelves over Hershey’s reluctance to address child labor. A Hershey’s spokesperson said the timing was coincidental. Whole Foods spokeswoman Libba Letton told Patriot-News her company was waiting on further detail from Hershey’s before making a final decision.

The Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign released a statement welcoming Hershey’s announcement and urging the company to adopt the Fair Trade certification. The campaign, joined by roughly 150,000 consumers, union allies, religious groups, and more than 40 food co-ops and natural grocers has been pressuring Hershey to address child labor. “We urge Hershey to reveal how the company plans to get to 100% certification by disclosing the certifiers it will be working with as well as a timeline for converting specific product lines,” the group said.

Netherlands-based NGO Stop the Traffik is one of numerous organizations that has pressured Hershey to commit to certification. Director Antonie Fountain told Confectionary News he was surprised by the decision.

“I hadn’t expected them to do this. Until this year Hershey seemed to be impervious to public pressure. It’s a good first step. The question is, how are they going to do it?”

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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