Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hershey, one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the U.S., is lagging behind other companies in taking steps to ensure decent working conditions in its supply chain. In the United States, Hershey conjures up innocent childhood pleasures and enjoyable snacks. However, halfway across the globe, there is a dark side to Hershey. In West Africa, where Hershey sources much of its cocoa, the scene is one of child labor, trafficking, and forced labor. Hershey, which claims 42.5 percent of the U.S. chocolate market, has been slow to initiate adequate measures against abuses. The Hershey report notes that "modern slavery exists in diverse areas, including manufacturing, harvesting of raw materials, marketing commercial sexual activity (often aimed at the business traveler) and violent acts against workers."

Hershey's continued refusal to identify cocoa suppliers and "lack of transparency" makes it impossible for outside observers to verify the conditions on the farms. Hershey is also accused of "greenwashing" the problem, as opposed to instituting real reforms. Various charitable donations by the company display social responsibility, but there are no policies in place to combat the systemic issue of human rights within its own supply. Hershey does not have any third-party verification. Unlike its competitors, Hershey has not embraced the strongest system of certification, the Fair Trade label. Only one Hershey chocolate bar has the certification, leaving all the other popular products unaccountable.

"When you look at the amount of money in the cocoa industry and the enormous profits of companies like Hershey, the money dedicated to this issue is clearly inadequate," said Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, fair trade campaign director for Global Exchange.

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