NGOs have largely welcomed the move, but say Hershey could go further by setting clearer deadlines for supplier compliance and excluding suppliers that sell unsustainable palm oil to other companies.
Hershey said the new policy (available here) strengthened its earlier commitment to source 100% traceable and responsible palm oil, announced in December 2013.
It comes after other major firms such as Mondelēz, Ferrero and Nestlé strengthened their sourcing policy after coming under criticism from NGOs for hiding behind RSPO commitments.
Discussions with stakeholders
Hershey told ConfectioneryNews that meetings with stakeholders across the palm oil supply chain had influenced it to develop a detailed policy.
“Our new sourcing policy gives our stakeholders the roadmap for how we will go beyond RSPO-certified palm oil and achieve a truly responsible and sustainable palm oil supply chain at The Hershey Company,” said Frank Day, vice president of global commodities at Hershey.
What must suppliers do?
‘Transformational’ says The Forest Trust
TFT Director Robin Barr called the move an “essential for transformation in the industry”.“Taking the decision to actively move beyond the accepted norm in palm oil is a very commendable one,” she said.
The policy drawn up with the non-profit organization The Forest Trust (TFT) means that suppliers must provide palm oil that does not contribute to deforestation, including protection and conservation of high conservation values and high carbon stock forests.
The palm oil must also not be derived from new developments on peat and suppliers should identify and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and respect labor and land rights of indigenous peoples.
Greenpeace previously accused Hershey of relying on the RSPO to sever the link between their chocolates and deforestation. Today it welcomed the move, but said there was room for improvement.
Good move, says UCS
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) had pushed Hershey for a stronger commitment beyond its December 2013 pledge and said the science-based policy placed Hershey ahead of industry competitors. But Doug Boucher, director of UCS’s Tropical Forests & Climate Initiative, added: “Hershey can still improve its policy by committing to tracing all its palm oil to the plantation where it was grown.” Read Boucher's blog post HERE.
“Hershey's expanded commitment contains most of the elements a palm oil policy should address, including important milestones for traceability and new expansions,” Joao Talocchi, Greenpeace US Senior Palm Oil Campaigner told this site.
“On the other hand, it lacks the requirement for third party verification, and the necessary deadline for full compliance.”
The Greenpeace campaigner said TFT seemed to be implementing partners and his organization would like to see true independent third party verification.
“Without a deadline, serious social and environmental issues around existing operations will continue to exist,” continued Talocchi.
We asked Hershey how long it would give a violating supplier to comply with the terms before it switched suppliers.
“We will address any supply issues on a case-by-case basis and take action only if remediation is not possible. Our goal is to successfully remediate any issues with suppliers rather than remove them from our supply chain,”said Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications at Hershey.
"If we identify suppliers not in compliance, we will begin remediation immediately. However, if remediation fails to bring a supplier into compliance, we will quickly remove them from our supply chain. Period."
Along with other NGOs, Greenpeace has launched the Palm Oil Innovation Group that looks at progressive producers. Recommended suppliers according to the group include New Britain Palm Oil, Agropalma, Daabon and NBPOL.
Beckman said it was premature to discuss who Hershey suppliers are and said these would be disclosed once the work with TFT was completed in Q1 2015.
Looking outside of Hershey
“The other critical thing is that Hershey not limit its commitment to palm oil in its own supply chain, but ensure it only buys from companies that adhere to these commitments for all their operations. Otherwise, for example, Hershey risks buying 'clean' palm oil grown in peninsular Malaysia from a company that continues to clear peat lands in Sumatra,” Talocchi of Greenpeace continued.
He added that Hershey should expand the commitment to cover all forest commodities used by the company including paper packaging, sugar and cocoa.