Progress in its efforts to ensure sourcing of 100% certified and sustainable cocoa and traceable palm oil by 2020 was among the achievements detailed by The Hershey Company in its 2014 CSR report.
Eric Boyle, Senior Manager of Sourcing at Hershey’s told ConfectioneryNews: “In 2014, Hershey achieved 30% use of certified cocoa, putting us ahead of schedule to hit our 2015 goal of 50%. Hershey has pledged to use 100% certified and sustainable cocoa in all chocolate products by 2020.”
Hershey currently sources its certified cocoa from farms that have undergone the sustainable certification process with one of the globally recognized certifying organizations (UTZ Certified, Fairtrade USA and Rainforest Alliance).
Certified cocoa is verified by independent auditors who follow recognized international standards that address labor issues, the environment and sustainable farming practices.
Tracing palm oil
Hershey’s annual purchase of palm oil constitutes less than 1% of its total commodities spend, which is currently only 0.0004% of the world’s existing palm oil.
In September 2014, Hershey became a member of The Forest Trust (TFT), a respected global NGO with sourcing expertise.
“Working in partnership with TFT, Hershey traced its supply chain to more than 94% of all the mills that supply its palm and palm kernel oil globally as of April. While Hershey completes its mill-level mapping, we have begun the next phase of work – mapping our palm oil supply chain back to the plantation level – which we expect to complete in 2016,” said Boyle.
More than 1,200 mills supply palm oil to Hershey manufacturing facilities worldwide and they are located in two regions: Southeast Asia (1,235 mills) and Central America (11 mills), according to the new CSR.
Palm oil is used in 13 Hershey plants located in three countries: United States (9 plants), Mexico (2 plants) and China (2 plants).
CocoaAction, CocoaLink and YieldFinder
In 2014, Hershey also made substantial progress on a number of additional CSR goals including helping to found CocoaAction, a pre-competitive industry collaboration aiming to benefit up to 300,000 farmers and their communities.
CocoaAction’s vision is to rejuvenate and establish an economically viable cocoa sector by 2020 and benefit up to 300,000 cocoa farmers and their local communities (200,000 in Côte d’Ivoire and 100,000 in Ghana).
Another important targeted program that helps to share benefits with stakeholders on the ground is the CocoaLink public-private partnership, established in 2011 by Hershey, the World Cocoa Foundation and the Ghana Cocoa Board.
“In the case of our CocoaLink mobile technology program in Ghana, we’ve sent valuable information to cocoa farmers through 1.2m local language text messages, delivered free of charge by our partner, the Ghana Cocoa Board. CocoaLink messages communicate practical, best-practice agricultural and social information, supporting things like malaria prevention and literacy training, and the program has been shown to increase cocoa farmers’ yields 45% on average,” Boyle explained.
Finally, Hershey YieldFinder is a new program that aims to track and project cocoa yields in sourcing regions. Based on statistically significant protocols, cocoa yields from 100 farms will be compared over multiple crop years and farmers of these selected plots will be individually interviewed about their farming practices.
The most efficient and high-impact production techniques will be identified and key insights will be shared with farmers to help them increase their yields.
“Our Ghana partner, Source Trust, expects to complete initial interviews with cocoa farmers about their farming practices by mid-year. For the first time, Source Trust field agents are using tablets to enter, analyze and share data based on their field interviews, so this information is gathered in real time. We will compare the insights from these surveys with the actual cocoa yields experienced on farms with the intention to analyze yield results with training practices and farmer implementation, adjusting for variables such as rainfall,” Boyle revealed.
Quality and food safety
In terms of quality and food safety, Hershey’s is listening to consumers and is keen to explain what ingredients it uses and why they are needed to provide the flavors, aromas and textures for its products.
The company built extensive new content on its corporate website under the Our Ingredients section that details Hershey’s position on food transparency issues, such as allergens, core ingredient stories, special dietary needs, company commitments and an online ingredient glossary, among others.
Hershey’s currently uses both GM and non-GM ingredients in its products, based on the recognition that that the international scientific community has concluded that genetically modified ingredients are safe for consumption. Nevertheless, as many consumers have expressed non-GM ingredients are important to them, so to meet consumer preferences, the company is working to make certain products non-GM.
One of the difficulties that Hershey’s faces in this process is that the current U.S. commodities supply chain does not have enough non-GM ingredients to meet the supply needs required for Hershey to fully transition to all non-GM ingredients, particularly in corn, soy and sugar.
“We are leading industry conversations with suppliers and building our manufacturing capabilities to pursue non-genetically modified ingredients. Currently, we offer Scharffen Berger Chocolates, organic Dagoba Chocolates, Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate as non-GM products. In 2015, you can expect products in our snacking portfolio that include non-genetically modified ingredients. We are also transitioning some of our iconic chocolate brands to non-GM ingredients by year end including Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars,” Boyle revealed.
CSR not a tool for consumer recognition
“Though consumers may not be aware of the great progress Hershey is making to support and improve our supply chain practices, we aren't committed to these CSR efforts for recognition," Boyle declared.
"We are truly dedicated to reducing our environmental impact, ensuring ethical sourcing and combating child labor as part of our legacy of doing well by doing good. Consumer awareness and interest in what companies are doing in this space continues to grow across the world and we are happy to share these great achievements.”
Hershey’s knows that its ability to innovate and keep pace with demand for its products is dependent upon the ethical, efficient and sustainable development of the agricultural communities where it sources its ingredients.
“We will continue to push ourselves to make significant strides against our CSR commitments in 2015, including goals set for responsible sourcing, environmental sustainability, ingredient transparency and a move to simple ingredients for some of our most iconic brands,” Boyle concluded.
Hershey’s full 2014 CSR report is available HERE.