The Hershey Company announced on Jan. 30, 2012, that it will begin making its Hershey’s Bliss chocolate products with 100 percent cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, which have met comprehensive sustainability standards to protect the environment, employees, and communities.
The commitment is a necessary and long-awaited first step to improving the chocolate manufacturer’s supply chain accountability. Hershey will use an independent, third-party certification system to ensure its Bliss cocoa is grown sustainably – and without the use of forced and child labor.
In West Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown, tens of thousands of children are forced to work on cocoa plantations – particularly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the world’s two top cocoa exporting nations. Many of these children are smuggled in from extremely poor countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso.
“The sweet taste of chocolate can turn bitter, especially when one learns children are forced to work on cocoa farms,” said Mark Regier, director of stewardship investing for Everence and Praxis Mutual Funds. “This announcement from The Hershey Company is a welcome response to the labor abuses happening in cocoa farms throughout West Africa. We commend Hershey for taking steps to address these issues.”
Since 2009, Praxis Mutual Funds (which are advised by Everence Capital Management) has encouraged Hershey to address its cocoa bean sourcing, encouraging equitable pay for farmers and fair labor standards for workers. In 2011 Praxis led other concerned investors in conversations with Hershey to discuss the company’s first corporate responsibility report and, in October 2011, Praxis organized an investor call with leaders of CocoaLink, a Hershey program providing pertinent information (including child labor awareness) through a cell phone network to farmers in Ghana.
Praxis is also leading conversations with Kraft Foods Inc., the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer, in an effort to help that company strengthen cocoa sourcing policies and local development activities aimed at eliminating forced child labor and increasing income for smaller farmers.
About Praxis Mutual Funds and Everence
Praxis Mutual Funds, advised by Everence Capital Management, is a leading faith-based, socially responsible family of mutual funds designed to help people and groups integrate their finances with faith values. To learn more, visit www.praxismutualfunds.com.
Everence helps individuals, organizations and congregations integrate finances with faith through a national team of advisors and representatives. Everence offers banking, insurance and financial services with community benefits and stewardship education. To learn more, visit www.everence.com or call (800) 348-7468.