\”Bitter\” chocolate report: Hershey dominates U.S. market, but lags behind competitors in avoiding forced labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor



As fall returns in North America, the lunch boxes and Halloween candy bags of America\’s children will be filled with Hershey Bars, Hershey\’s Kisses, Reese\’s Peanut Butter Cups and other confections of the Hershey Company. But what most American parents don\’t realize is that \”halfway across the globe, there is a dark side to Hershey.

In West Africa, where Hershey sources much of its cocoa, the scene is one of child labor, trafficking and forced labor,\” according to a major new report from Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and Oasis USA.

Titled \”Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility for the Hershey Company,\” the report notes that Hershey dominates 42.5 percent of the U.S. chocolate market, even though it lags every major competitor in terms of programs instituted to ensure sustainability in their cocoa purchasing. Chocolate companies that do better include, Cadbury/Kraft, Mars and Nestle, according to the report. Hershey\’s own CSR report, issued today, fails to provide any evidence that Hershey is making progress in addressing these issues.

As the Time to Raise the Bar report notes: \”The largest global chocolate companies are increasingly purchasing cocoa that is certified to meet certain labor, social and environmental standards. Hershey stands out as a laggard in terms of its supply chain responsibility practices.\”

\”Hershey has been hiding too long behind its image as America\’s chocolate company and a responsible corporate citizen,\” says Green America Fair Trade Coordinator Elizabeth O\’Connell. \”It\’s time for Hershey to raise the bar and ensure that abusive child labor and forced labor are not in their cocoa.\”

\”It is time for Hershey to ensure that worker rights are protected – from bean to bar – in the production of its chocolate,\” says Tim Newman, Campaigns Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. \”Our sweet treats should not come at the expense of children in West Africa or workers around the world.\”

\”Children continue to suffer in slavery as Hershey\’s profits soar,\” says Oasis USA Executive Director Paul Hong-Lange. \”Hershey CAN and must do its part to end human trafficking on cocoa farms in West Africa.\”

\”Hershey demonstrates a commitment to children in the US by funding the Milton Hershey School,\” says Global Exchange Fair Trade Director Adrienne Fitch-Frankel. \”They can demonstrate the same concern for children and families in African communities that farm their cocoa by using Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa for their chocolates.\”


  • Sourcing of chocolate. Much of Hershey\’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa, a region plagued by forced labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor. Hershey does not have a system in place to ensure that its cocoa purchases from this region are not tainted by labor rights abuses.
  • Lack of transparency. Hershey continuously refuses to identify its cocoa suppliers; therefore it is impossible to verify that its chocolate was not made under conditions involving the worst forms of child labor.
  • Greenwashing instead of needed reforms. Hershey points to various charitable donations to children in the US and programs in West Africa as examples of its social responsibility, yet has no policies in place to ensure that the cocoa used in its products is not produced with forced, trafficked, or child labor.
  • No third-party certification. A reputable, independent, third-party certification can ensure that a process is in place to identify and remediate labor rights abuses. For cocoa, the strongest certification system currently available is Fair Trade. Unlike competitors like Cadbury and Green & Blacks, Hershey\’s has not embraced Fair Trade certification. Only one of Hershey\’s chocolate bars, from the Dagoba line it acquired in 2006, has Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa. Hershey lags behind its competitors when it comes to purchasing cocoa that has been certified to meet certain labor, social, and environmental standards. Several major chocolate companies offer Fair Trade options now, and many smaller companies have been 100% Fair Trade for years