Hershey's Gets a Bit Safer for Africa's Exploited Kids

HersheyIn the 1970s, everyone could recite the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup campaign catchphrase: "You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!" Well, here's one for the new millennium: "You got your chocolate in my conscience!"

That's the message Reese's parent company Hershey (HSY) received when more than 100,000 consumers let the chocolatier know how they felt about the connection between forced child labor and Hershey's confections.

Hershey has announced its plan to purchase Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa for its Bliss chocolate line by the end of this year. The company has made this move in the nick of time.

A Bitter Super Bowl Message

The International Labor Rights Forum planned to out Hershey's failures in a Super Bowl ad spot this weekend, pointing out that Hershey has fallen behind its rivals in addressing abusive practices in the cocoa industry.

According to the ILRF, 40% of the world's cocoa comes from West Africa's Ivory Coast. The Department of State estimates that 109,000 children work "under the worst forms of child labor" there, suffering abuse such as beatings as well as enduring long hours, having to utilize dangerous work tools, and being exposed to pesticides and brutal weather conditions for cocoa production.

Meanwhile, 10,000 Ivory Coast children are subjected to human trafficking and even slavery.

Those are awfully high prices for some children to pay so the rest of us can snack on affordable Hershey bars.

Hershey isn't the only candy company moving toward the moral high ground. Privately held Mars vowed in 2009 to shell out millions to certify that the cocoa it uses in its products is sustainably sourced by 2020. When Kraft (KFT) bought Cadbury last year, it pledged to honor Cadbury's commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle (NSRGY) has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.

People Power

The fact that Hershey's making a move in the right direction certainly underlines how important consumer advocacy is. The ILRF, Change.org, Global Exchange, and Green America have all done their part for years to ensure that the 100,000 letters from consumers made it onto Hershey's radar.

Consumers (including kids) are asking Hershey to do one better. An eighth-grader has started a Change.org campaign asking Hershey to commit to certified cocoa in all of its products going forward.

Most American kids love chocolate -- and frankly, so do most adults. That's why Hershey's failure to more fully address cocoa's problematic impact on children in far-off locales seems particularly unappetizing. While it's good that Hershey's making one step toward improving its supply chain, clearly it could still do a lot better in making sure chocolate's safe for all kids, everywhere.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.



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mike edwards

let the mexicans buy hershey products i try to spread the word about there move to mexico to everybody i see in the stores most people arnt aware of the ceos of hershey being greedy again and it makes me very angry for the people of hershey i hope this move backfires in there face

February 08 2012 at 9:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
satki49576

donald trump vice president. jobs

February 07 2012 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
daded

My wife and I stopped buying Hershey's products when they moved to Mexico. We felt they were no longer the American icon. I guess we did the right thing.

February 07 2012 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jake Leon

SORRY I LOVE YOU ! AFFLUENTLOVE/COM

February 07 2012 at 2:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
drossi9583

I TRY TO ONLY BUY MADE IN USA, SCREW HERSHEY.

February 07 2012 at 1:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer Teates

I don't pay much attention to Hershey's as a product so, needless to say, I had no idea what was happening within their company overseas. I hate to admit that I'm not surprised and even sorrier to use the following cliche but, unfortunately, many Americans are of the mindset that "what happens in Africa, stays in Africa."

February 06 2012 at 10:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
NomadBud

Now the kids cant make any money.

February 06 2012 at 7:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rhill65

Remember, these are the same clowns who are now "pumping air" into the original Hersey Kisses, and probably charging you more. These guys must think we are all on DOG FOOD.

February 06 2012 at 7:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bill M

Of course they can afford to give the candy away. Its now made in Mexico.

February 06 2012 at 5:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Bill

It's more than just a company that makes chocolate treats. Engaging in child exploitation in foreign countries is part of their business plan. In addition check this story. Hershey's and CETUSA. They also hire workers in the U.S.A.

http://wamu.org/news/12/02/03/cetusa_banned_from_bringing_in_foreign_students

February 06 2012 at 4:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply