In June 2011, around 150 students from different schools, organizations and communities; protested outside the Hershey store in Time Square, New York, yelling:
Hershey’s: tastes good, feels bad.
The Hershey’s spokesman at that time, Kirt Saville did not address the company’s child labor practices, but said it has been committed for the past 50 years to improving the West African cocoa communities.
The Harkin-Engle protocol, also known as the ‘cocoa protocol’, was formed in 2001 by US government officials, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engle. It was made as a response to the widespread news of ongoing forced labor and child labor practices in the cocoa industry. Ten years later, even with the protocol in place, there are minimal changes that have been made by The Hershey company to responsibly source their supply of cocoa.
Tim Newman, an activist with the International Labor Rights Forum said:
I think that it’s time to end all the empty promises. Right now we know that hundreds of thousands of kids in Ghana and the Ivory Coast are still working in hazardous conditions.
On January 2012, after being targeted by activists with protests, rallies and petitions. A petition was started on Change.org that amassed over 50,000 signatures calling on Hershey to go fair trade.
Following the petition, Hershey, announced its commitment to invest 10 million dollars in education and its smart-phone cocoa link project in order to teach efficiency to farmers:
Basically, Hershey’s plan was to increase the yield of fields that farmers have, thus increasing income and wealth and effectively reducing the need of child labor.
However, is increasing efficiency and improving management the most effective way to tackle child labor in the industry?
The Hershey Company has been involved with third party organizations when acquiring their source of cocoa. They emphasize that they relied on “cocoa-derived products” that were provided by other multinational corporations. It is not known how those other multinational corporations have acquired the cocoa products that the Hershey company uses.
Thus, there is a lack of transparency regarding the activities of the Hershey company.
- There are no actual programs in place that traces its cocoa supply chain.
- No labor standards for cocoa suppliers
- No effective system to monitor and audit the conditions of farms.
Furthermore, this is an example of the concept, indirect blindness. Hershey’s fails to take responsibility and apply the same level of ethical accountability because a third-party organization is involved.
In 2013, the Hershey company faced a new lawsuit that was filed by the law firm, Grant and Eisenhofer, on behalf of the Hershey company’s largest shareholder, the Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System.
The compliant stated:
There are substantial grounds to believe that the Company’s Board of Directors has caused or permitted the Company to support the use of unlawful child labor, in fact integrating this illegal conduct into its business model.
To follow up: The US court has refused to dismiss a civil case against Hershey alleging complicity in illegal child labor and human trafficking on cocoa farms in West Africa: Court refuses to dismiss Hershey child labor case.
From the site; the judge said, there was a ‘reasonable inference that Hershey’s products contained coca derived from child labor and human trafficking and also an inference that Hershey knew about it.’
The Hershey Company, has been avoiding the actual facts of the progress it has made with regards to the Harkin-Engle protocol. Instead, Hershey puts forward other statements and is often greenwashing by continuously highlighting charitable donations to children in the US and programs in West Africa as examples of its social responsibility. Despite this, there are still no actual policies that have been set up to ensure that no child labor was involved in the Hershey company production.
The countdown to 2020, the year that the Hershey company has pledged to source 100% certified and sustainable cocoa begins. With no actual systems or policies against child labor in place, it’s time to Raise the Bar, Hershey.