Leaders of several prominent human rights, consumer, and healthcare groups spoke out today in an appeal to Hershey’s leadership demanding reforms to the candy maker’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, including the company’s ongoing use of abusive child labor in cocoa production. This appeal coincides with World Day Against Child Labor, a global effort to raise awareness of the issue of child labor, organized by the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO).
The five groups, including AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum, and the National Guestworker Alliance called on Hershey’s Chief Executive Officer, John P. Bilbrey, and the Hershey Trust to take action to end a range of appalling practices affecting children and students at both the Hershey School and the Hershey family of companies.
The Hershey Trust Company, the Milton Hershey School, and the Hershey family of companies have come under increasing criticism recently over the Hershey School’s rejection of a 13-year-old boy due to the teen’s HIV-positive status and for refusing to change corporate policies that resulted in the exploitation of exchange students at a Hershey chocolate packaging plant in Palmyra, PA.
Hershey is also complicit in human rights abuses abroad, including forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking. Roughly seventy percent of the world’s cocoa is grown on small farms in West Africa where Hershey sources the majority of its cocoa and where an estimated 1.8 million children are believed to work on cocoa farms, according to independent research conducted by Tulane University. Tulane also found that a number of these children are subjected to the worst forms of child labor including dangerous working conditions and human trafficking. Some major chocolate companies have made commitments to independently certify their cocoa supply as child-labor-free (including Mars’ commitment to certify all of its cocoa by 2020). However, the Hershey Company trails behind its competitors (with a commitment to only certify two lines of its chocolate) and continues to earn billions at the expense of children. The letter, published at www.raisethebarhershey.org, explains that Milton Hershey’s legacy of caring for children, workers and the community appears to have been replaced by callous indifference, corporate greed, and a blatant refusal to take responsibility for actions that are harming children, students, and workers in the United States and around the world.
"Each group has different goals,” said Michael Weinstein President, of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation regarding the appeal. “But we are united by Hershey’s blatant refusal to take responsibility for its actions that are harming children, students, and workers in the United States and around the world.”
AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF) is a global organization providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 130,000 people in 22 countries. AHF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S. www.aidshealth.org
GLOBAL EXCHANGE is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world. www.GlobalExchange.org
GREEN AMERICA is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. www.GreenAmerica.org
INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM (ILRF) is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. www.LaborRights.org
NATIONAL GUESTWORKER ALLIANCE (NGA) is a membership organization of guestworkers that works for collective dignity at work and for fairness in the terms of migration. www.guestworkeralliance.org