Candy Industry Blog

Facing up to facts

August 17, 2011
On the surface, it seems like the Hershey protesters from have finally found the one issue that’s black and white. But, of course, no issue is black and white, and this one in particular is more of a cocoa brown color.

By Crystal Lindell
Associate Editor
On the surface, it seems like the Hershey protesters from have finally found the one issue that’s black and white.

The group, which claims to fight the “rampant child and slave labor in the cocoa industry," recently targeted Hershey’s s’mores-theme photo contest on Facebook by urging protesters to post pictures of themselves on the site holding signs asking for Hershey to stop child labor and slave labor.

I mean, who in their right might is pro-child labor, or pro-slave labor? Sign me up to fight against either one of those any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. And all I have to do is post a picture of myself holding a sign that reads, “Hershey: Children are more important than chocolate” on the company’s Facebook. Well, that’s easy enough. I mean, obviously, children are more important than chocolate!

It’s a cause we should all be able to feel good about. Am I right?

But, of course, no issue is black and white, and this one in particular is more of a cocoa brown color.

Before we even get to whether or not the claims are worthy though, it’s worth pointing out that the last time I was able to check Hershey’s Facebook, less than 20 protesters had posted to the Hershey s’mores wall, and fewer than 50 had posted in the picture album. Not quite an overwhelming majority, by any means.

That being said, if the cause is worthy, the cause is worthy no matter how many people get behind it. But, how worthy is this particular cause? Let’s take a closer look at the issue through a critical thinking lens.

What exactly has Hershey done to combat child labor and slave labor in the cocoa fields?

Well, the company has worked with its partners to support programs that improve access to education, enhance productivity and incomes, eliminate exploitative labor practices and improve health in cocoa communities.

What’s that? You want specifics?

Hmm, well the company is a founding member of the World Cocoa Foundation, the International Cocoa Initiative and ECHOES. Oh, yes, it also partners with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in an initiative to improve the livelihoods of approximately 200,000 cocoa farmers in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia.

Want more? No problem.

Hershey also is participating in a new $17-million partnership with the Department of Labor and the global chocolate industry to significantly reduce child labor in West Africa. They recently created and funded CocoaLink, a first-of-its kind program that uses mobile technology to deliver practical information on agricultural and social programs to rural cocoa farmers.

Basically, the program sends out text messages to farmers that can help them increase their yields and their incomes, improve their standard of living, and increase the opportunity for their children to attend school. Farmers also receive information and training about labor standards and hazardous child labor to promote appropriate labor practices. The program started last month and already more than 2,000 farmers in Ghana are participating.

How horrible of Hershey!

Now, don’t get me wrong, even Hershey admits that problems remain and that there’s a lot more that can be worked on.

“These programs are making progress, but we understand that much remains to be done,” reads a company statement. “We will continue to work with our stakeholders, including the governments of cocoa-growing regions, to expand programs that help farmers and their families.

With that being said, I think it’s important to take a breath, and realize this is a complex problem that a lot of industry leaders are already working on. And, just think, if we could put all that protesting energy toward helping Hershey and others in the industry, chances are more would get done to resolve the problems. Of course, that would probably require a lot more effort than just posting a picture on Facebook.
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