Sweet Victory?

After hearing a lot about The Hershey Company for the past couple years, I decided it would be a very interesting corporation to write about for Paper 2. I grew up surrounded by Hershey’s chocolates and candies, but I rarely thought of the company as anything more than a giant candy factory. In fact, The Hershey Company is so much more than just our favorite candy producer.

Beginning as a small caramel shop, the Hershey Company blossomed into a major chocolate producer in the early 1900s. The founder, Milton Hershey, was almost as dedicated to his chocolate as he was to charity and inspiring joy in others. As Hershey grew, Milton decided to found a school for underprivileged youth. The Milton Hershey School, which opened in 1909, provides free education, health care, housing, and counseling to orphans from around the country. Milton himself donated a large chunk of his wealth to the school, but even better, he sured the future survival of the school by donating 30% of all future Hershey profits to the school! Talk about an organization that gives back! Additionally, Hershey has recently been committed to promoting corporate social responsibility. Their campaign for “shared goodness” rests on the idea of supporting and embodying “good business, a better life, and a bright future.” This encompasses the company’s efforts to operate in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Hershey’s transparency and commitment to constant improvement in terms of social and environmental sustainability are impressive to me, especially as they are such a large and well known company. It is refreshing to see that they have been consistently concerned with the impact their company has on the environment and their surrounding communities.

After exploring multiple articles, I came across an issue that I would like to explore in Paper 2. In 2011, it was revealed that there was evidence of exploitative child labor in Hershey’ supply chain. West African cocoa farms are home to abusive child labor, forced labor, and trafficking. Hershey and other chocolate companies source much of their cocoa from these farms, where families live in sever poverty and misery. Hershey was lagging behind its competitors in the implementation of policies designed to end these abuses, so a campaign called “Raise the Bar, Hershey!” was formed by students, consumers, and activists. Their goal was to encourage Hershey to end these labor rights violations by using Fair Trade Certified cocoa. Fair Trade cocoa ensures stable prices for famers and ensures that they are being treated fairly. Many other chocolate companies had been offering fair trade products for years, so consumers were baffled that Hershey, a main chocolatier and sustainability-minded organization, had neglected to do so.

In response to this pressure, Hershey decided in 2012 to invest $10 million in West Africa to help reduce child labor. They also decided to partner with the Rainforest Alliance to monitor famers in West Africa and pledged to use only Fair Trade Certified cocoa in their Hershey Bliss products. This response to their critics was swift and fairly thorough. I would love to further explore this conflict and the decisions that went into it, especially from an ethical perspective! It would be interesting to see and analyze why they originally opted against Fair Trade and what went into the decision to switch.


“Major Rally in Times Square Calls on Hershey Company to Stop Using Child Labor Chocolate.” Economics Week 24 June 2011: 87. Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources. Web. 5 Nov. 2014.

Meinert, D. (2012). Hershey takes steps to reduce child labor. HRMagazine, 57(3), 20. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/940344783?accountid=9784






6 responses to “Sweet Victory?

  1. I love this topic, Kerry! I’d be curious to learn more about the critics’ response to only using FTC cocoa in certain products. Did this appease them? Is it ethical to acknowledge a problem but ignore it?


  2. This will be an awesome paper! I think Hershey is one of those companies constantly in the spotlight for being such a sustainable company that I wasn’t even aware of the child labor issue. Great insight.


  3. Is Hershey publically traded? I am curious how the stipulation of 30% of profits to the school survives. I mean, Friedman would flip out! It is so clearly an example of spending on something wholly other then the business!


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