By Judy Gearhart, Executive Director, International Labor Rights Forum
The Hershey Company is working hard to promote its charitable giving programs to poor African farmers and, indeed, it is high time they attempt to address the effects of crushing poverty in the region. Hershey is unwilling, however, to be accountable to these farmers in a more significant and straightforward way. Hershey needs to stop ‘blowing their own horn’ and instead pay a decent price for their cocoa and accept their share of responsibility for the rampant use of child labor and forced child labor on the farms where they buy cocoa.
In their press release about fighting malaria in Ghana, Hershey makes much to do about being a founding member of the U.S. Department of Labor’s $17 million Framework of Action to combat the worst forms of child labor in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, yet they do not say how much – or how little – they are contributing to that fund. So while Hershey promotes its charitable giving and its nominal support for much-needed assistance programs (paid for mainly by U.S. taxpayers), it continues to refuse to make real commitments to third party monitoring of child labor in its supply chain.
The U.S. Department of Labor enlisted Tulane University experts to conduct a multi-year, independent evaluation of company efforts to work with local governments to stop the use of child labor in cocoa farming. The results showed how little has been achieved in the past ten years and that there is a need for more direct, third party monitoring. The study recommended that companies should commit to traceability systems in their cocoa supply chains, which “enables the enforcement of standards at the producer level and is a requirement of product certification.”
Mars, Cadbury and Nestle all took this message to heart and have been rolling out significant programs to invite third party monitors and certifiers onto their farms to check for child labor. The most sustainable of these certification programs is Fairtrade’s holistic approach, which not only checks for child workers, but also works with farmers on securing a better price for their product and developing self-sustaining, democratic structures that can engender cross-farm support and create a ripple effect of farmers who now say “No!” to using child labor.
Hershey has been invited multiple times to engage in this much more straightforward and honest discussion on how to be accountable towards the children harvesting its cocoa. We continue to wait and hope that we will see them take more direct steps to help the children in their supply chain – not just through charity, but through the first principal of healthcare programs anywhere: “First, do no harm.”
For more information on Hershey's practices, read the real corporate social responsibility report for the Hershey company, "Still Time to Raise the Bar," published by International Labor Rights Forum, Global Exchange, and Green America, all members of the Raise the Bar, Hershey campaign.