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article imageChocolate manufacturer Hershey linked to child labour

By Subir Ghosh     Sep 17, 2010 in Business
Washington - 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, a report has said. The company has even been linked to child labour.
The report, titled 'Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility for the Hershey Company' (PDF file), said that Hershey dominates 42.5 per cent of the U.S. chocolate market, even though it lags behind every major competitor in terms of programmes instituted to ensure sustainability in their cocoa purchasing. Rival chocolate companies like Cadbury/Kraft, Mars and Nestle do much better.
Prepared by Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), and Oasis USA, the report was released on the same day (Monday) as Hershey released its annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. All four are labour rights and fair trade groups. The report also came the same day that the US government and the chocolate industry announced a pledge to commit USD 17 million as part of a long-term commitment to eradicate child labour in the industry.
A spokesperson for Hershey declined to directly address the charges in the report, referring a journalist with the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency to the company's Corporate Social Responsibility Report.
A cocoa market stall in Côte d’Ivoire capital Abidjan.
A cocoa market stall in Côte d’Ivoire capital Abidjan.
Nestlé
The report found major problems with the sourcing. West Africa is the largest producer of cocoa with 70 percent, Côte d’Ivoire alone growing 40 percent of the global supply, followed by Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Over 1.5 million small family farms depend on cocoa for their livelihood. Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire live in poverty, with forced labour, human trafficking and child labour being rampant.
The Payson Center at Tulane University, which is spearheading a project which examines efforts to establish child labour monitoring and verification systems in West Africa, had found that children are frequently involved in weeding, plucking cocoa pods, gathering and heaping cocoa pods, and other cocoa-growing activities. It also reported that 15 percent of children surveyed reported forced or involuntary work in the previous 12 months.
The Hershey Company, the report pointed out, has been aware of the problems that exist at the start of its supply chain, yet it continues to source from this region without ensuring that labour rights abuses do not occur in the production of the cocoa it uses.
Hershey has no mechanisms in place to trace its cocoa supply chain, institute labour standards for cocoa suppliers, or independently monitor and audit the conditions of the cocoa farms from which it sources. The report argued that without access to such information there was no way the company could trace from where the cocoa was being sourced. In fact, the Hershey Trust even rejected a proposal (reproduced from The Patriot News on the ILRF site) for transparency in its supply chain in 2006.
Cocoa beans poured onto banana leaves for drying in Côte d’Ivoire capital Abidjan.
Cocoa beans poured onto banana leaves for drying in Côte d’Ivoire capital Abidjan.
Nestlé
Unlike competitors like Cadbury and Green & Blacks, Hershey’s has not embraced Fair Trade certification. Only one of Hershey’s chocolate bars, from the Dagoba line it acquired in 2006, has Fair Trade Certified cocoa. The report said that the commitments of the other companies clearly show that it is possible for chocolate companies to institute programmes that provide a reasonable level of supply chain transparency and accountability.
“Hershey has been hiding too long behind its image as America’s chocolate company and a responsible corporate citizen,” Green America Fair Trade Coordinator Elizabeth O’Connell said in a statement. “It’s time for Hershey to raise the bar and ensure that abusive child labor and forced labor are not in their cocoa.”
“Hershey demonstrates a commitment to children in the US by funding the Milton Hershey School,” said Global Exchange Fair Trade Director Adrienne Fitch-Frankel. “They can demonstrate the same concern for children and families in African communities that farm their cocoa by using Fair Trade Certified cocoa for their chocolates.”
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