HERSHEY, Pa. (BUSINESS WIRE) — During the past half-century, The Hershey Company has helped family cocoa farmers and communities develop more productive agriculture practices, build educational and community resources, and improve labor practices. The company is now expanding these initiatives to modernize cocoa farming to increase farmer incomes, attract new farmers and improve cocoa growing communities.
Today, Hershey announces its “21st Century Cocoa Plan,” a roadmap for how the company will work to help cocoa communities around the world grow sustainable cocoa for the next century. Hershey will combine its responsible sourcing practices to expand the supply of sustainable cocoa while investing in community programs that improve education and the livelihoods of cocoa-growing families around the world.
“Cocoa is at the heart of our business and we care deeply that this key ingredient is grown in a safe, healthy and sustainable manner,” said John P. Bilbrey, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Hershey Company. “Through our Hershey 21St Century Cocoa Plan, we are taking meaningful and measurable steps and making a positive difference in the health and well-being of cocoa communities.
“This is a watershed moment for our industry to work together with cocoa growing nations to increase opportunities for farmers through better training, financing and community development. The complexity of the challenges requires us to work together with a focused plan.”
100% Certified Sustainable Cocoa
A cornerstone of Hershey’s 21St Century Cocoa Plan is its commitment to source 100 percent third-party certified cocoa for all of its chocolateproducts worldwide by 2020.
Certified cocoa is verified by independent auditors who assess against established standards for labor, environmental and sustainable farming practices. With about five percent of the world’s cocoa supply certified at the end of 2012 and the need for certified cocoa growing, Hersheybelieves its 2020 commitment – announced last October – is already helping expand the global supply of certified cocoa.
Hershey has already committed to source cocoa through three of the world’s most recognized cocoa certifying organizations: UTZ, Fair Trade USA and Rainforest Alliance. As Hershey’s buying volume increases, the company will be working with other well-established certification organizations to expand their capacity to certify more cocoa farmers globally.
2020 Certified Cocoa Milestones
In the five months since announcing its 100 percent third-party certified cocoa commitment, Hershey has made substantial progress towards its 2020 goals. The company is on track to source at least 10 percent of its total global cocoa purchases from certified sources in 2013, the first year of its 2020 commitment. Hershey also announced benchmarks for reaching 100 percent by 2020. The company has committed to scaling its certified cocoa purchases at the following rate:
- At least 10 percent by the end of 2013
- 40 to 50 percent by the end of 2016
- 100 percent by 2020
The company will continue to provide updates on its certified cocoa progress throughout the next seven years as part of its ongoing CSR reporting.
The Hershey 21St Century Cocoa Plan also includes accelerating and expanding its innovative and successful CocoaLink mobile phone program, which the company launched in 2011 in Ghana with the Ghana Cocoa Board and the World Cocoa Foundation. In 2013, the program will expand into Cote d’Ivoire, a major cocoa-producing country.
CocoaLink is a first-of-its kind program that uses mobile technology to deliver practical agricultural and social training to rural cocoa farmers at no cost. Today, more than nine in 10 Ghanaian cocoa farmers have access to a mobile phone. Since launching in Ghana in July 2011, CocoaLink has:
- Registered more than 16,000 cocoa farmers – about 35 percent of whom are women – in 550 communities across Ghana’s cocoa growing sector,
- Provided 300,000 SMS messages in the local language on topics that include pruning, planting, fertilizer application, spraying, children’s issues and insect control, and
- Addressed high illiteracy levels through community literacy training.
Hershey Development Center Enhances Cocoa Traceability and Certification
The HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW farmer and family development center, launched in 2012 in Assin Fosu in Ghana’s central cocoa region, will now play an important role in Hershey’s overall sustainable cocoa plans. The center, created in partnership with Source Trust, a non-profit organization set up to help farmers improve their livelihoods through better crop yields and quality, will provide Hershey with verified cocoa that can be traced back to the individual farm level.
HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW and 25 participating community-based farmer organizations help improve the living standards of 1,250 cocoa farm families through good agricultural, environmental, social and business practices training; access to improved planting material; and finance for farm inputs with the goal to double productivity yield and farm income over four years. More than 50 percent of farm family income in this region comes from cocoa. More than 6,000 community members will be impacted by the program.
The HERSHEY LEARN TO GROW farmer and family development center has also brought high-tech learning to the rural farm village. Last year,Hershey launched a distance learning program that allows approximately 80 middle school students in classrooms on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to connect through real-time, high-definition technology that creates a common, virtual classroom experience. Students in Assin Fosu connect to students from the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa., to share learning and cultural experiences.
The technology is also used to train local cocoa farmers on good agricultural, environmental and social practices and to benefit the wider community.
Accelerating Change to Improve Lives
Hershey’s 21St Century Cocoa Plan represents a range of on-the-ground programs and initiatives that work together to accelerate positive change in the cocoa growing regions over the next seven years. For example, inMexico, Hershey and cocoa supplier Agroindustrias Unidas de Cacao SA de CV have launched the Mexico Cocoa Project, a 10-year initiative to reintroduce cocoa growing in southern Mexico and help restore the country’s cocoa crop after it had been nearly decimated by the spread of a disease known as frosty pod rot. Through the distribution of disease-tolerant trees, the program intends to improve the livelihoods of more than 1,000 cocoa farmers and their families in the region and quadruple family incomes.
Through its own and partner programs, Hershey estimates the total portfolio of programs encompassed by its 21St Century Cocoa Plan will directly impact 750,000 cocoa farmers and indirectly benefit more than two million West Africans through utilization of technology, farmer training on good agricultural practice, cocoa seed nurseries and planting material, farm inputs on credit, village resource centers, malaria prevention, community infrastructure, village school construction, and literacy and health programs.
Hershey will regularly update its progress on the Hershey’s 21St Century Cocoa Plan and its various programs through its Corporate Social Responsibility public reporting and on its website.