Hershey at Halloween: Horrors or Heroes?

5 years ago
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What could be sweeter than a bag full of Hershey's chocolates at Halloween?

Early this month, Hershey issued a press release vowing to use only certified  cocoa in all of its chocolates by the year 2020.

If you're not sure why this is a big deal, you can read the truth behind Hershey's cocoa sources here.

This recent plan that Hershey unveiled to help eliminate child labor and slavery on the cocoa farms in West Africa is welcome news to activists and others (like me) who are concerned for those workers who are being exploited to bring us chocolate at the low prices we love.

I'm happy that Hershey has made a commitment to ethical procurement of the cocoa they use, but I'm having a little trouble swallowing this sweet news.

Is it possible that this press release that hit the newspapers  in October when people will be buying lots and lots of Halloween candy is a marketing ploy masquerading as good news?

Why am I suspicious?

1.  This vow came just days after Whole Foods Market pulled Hershey candy from the shelves of their stores because  the Hershey company could not assure Whole Foods that their chocolate bars were made without the use of forced labor.  Forced labor = Slavery, and Whole Foods said, "No, thanks!"

2.  EIGHT more years?  Really?  I realize that a change like this cannot happen overnight, but why do they need eight years to make good on their promise to make a difference in West Africa where most of the world's cocoa is grown?

Eight years may not sound like a long time to J.P. Bilbrey, CEO of Hershey, who reportedly received more than id="mce_marker"0 million in total compensation in 2011.  Eight years, however, must seem like an eternity to a twelve year old boy who has been forced to labor without any compensation on a cocoa farm in Africa from the time he was nine years old.  Only eight more years of brutal beatings and exposure to dangerous chemicals and horrific working conditions.  Bravo,  Mr. Bilbrey!

3. Who will monitor Hershey's cocoa suppliers to be sure that the cocoa doesn't come to them at the expense of children or enslaved laborers?  We don't know, and Hershey isn't saying.

One U.S. government funded study estimates that 1.8 million children are being forced to work on cocoa farms on West Africa's Ivory Coast.  It is my hope that Hershey is serious about their commitment to eliminate their involvement in this practice.  Time will tell.  Let's just hope it doesn't take eight years.

How do you feel about this news from the Hershey Corporation?   Are you more or less likely to buy Hershey chocolates now?

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