We did it! Hershey commits to certification. The fight against child labor continues.

After more than two years of calling on Hershey to address child labor issues in its supply chain, we have big news to share—Hershey announced yesterday it will be going 100% certified by 2020.  While this commitment seemed to come out hastily and in response to pressure from Whole Foods Market, there have been thousands of individuals who joined our Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign to turn up the heat on Hershey for lagging behind all of its major competitors when it comes to tackling child labor in its supply chain. Supporters across the country emailed and phoned Hershey, went to protests, and educated their friends and families about Hershey’s child labor issues.

For more on how this campaign victory came to pass, read on…

Hershey’s announcement came shortly after Whole Foods Market’s (WFM) decision to pull Scharffen Berger from its shelves nationwide–a decision it came to just 8 days after 15,000 Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign supporters inundated WFM managers’ inboxes nation-wide demanding action.   Scharffen Berger is a subsidiary of Hershey and had no systems in place to verify that it had been produced without the worst forms of child labor, an endemic problem in West Africa, where a majority of Hershey’s chocolate is sourced.

Whole Foods joined with more than 40 food cooperatives and natural grocers to raise their concerns about Hershey products in general—not just the higher-end products at their stores, but the entire Hershey supply chain.  Many of the businesses who signed this appeal in August 2012 were long time members of our Green Business Network, and share our practice of evaluating a company based on its overall operations, not simply one or two greener product lines.

This concern has been shared by an increasing number of individuals who have participated in our Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign since it launched in September 2010. To date, more than 150,000 consumers have taken action by signing petitions to Hershey’s CEO John Bilbrey, hosting events in their community or in their churches, taking action online or in stores, and even joining protests at Hershey’s flagship stores in New York, Chicago, and Niagara Falls.

While the campaign welcomes this announcement from Hershey, we continue to press the company to reveal its plans to meet this 2020 deadline.  Specifically, when it comes to identifying child labor, the fair trade system—audited on the ground by FLO Cert—goes farthest to identify, remediate, and prevent forced and/or harmful child labor.  We urge Hershey to adjust its commitment to achieve 100% fair trade certified cocoa by 2020. (read campaign statement)

Additionally, while we understand Hershey cannot change its entire supply chain overnight, we implore the company to act with urgency—while eight years seems like almost no time to a corporation of more than 120 years, it is a long time for a child, the difference between being a toddler and being an adolescent. A childhood…or a childhood lost.

At the end of the day, that’s what this campaign has always been about, and will continue to be about. Yes, we have been calling for Hershey to go fair trade certified across the board.  The reason for this is because this is the most practical tool we have at this point to address child labor in West Africa, and in many agricultural sectors around the world, but the effort is not about getting more labels in the market; it’s about changing the way business is done too often around the world.

Eleven years ago, the major chocolate companies signed a pledge—the Harkin-Engel Protocol— and promised to address the issue of child labor on Ghanaian and Ivorian cocoa farms. Deadline after deadline passed, and the industry dragged its feet, Hershey the slowest of them all.  We welcome this announcement today and urge Hershey to make firm, progressive commitments to transition their cocoa supply over the next eight years.  If Hershey continues to stall or obfuscate, more and more children will be forced to harvest cocoa pods in West Africa, rather than attend school.  Any chance that they or their communities had at a more prosperous future will be robbed from them.

The issue of child labor is by no means unique to West Africa; it’s a global problem of poverty and unfair power distribution, even in the Unites States. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are roughly 21 million people worldwide who are trapped in forced labor, including 6 million children forced into labor or sexual exploitation. The ILO also estimates that 215 million children are working as child laborers, of which about 115 million participate in hazardous labor.  To put this into perspective, 6 million is roughly equivalent to the population of Los Angeles and Chicago combined. It’s equivalent to 12% of the total the number of children enrolled in public schools in the Unites States (source).

There are far too many people to credit for this victory, so I will close on this note: we truly can make a difference when we work together and stand up for what we believe in and know is right. From the beginning, fair trade has been a movement focused on redistributing power from the most powerful traders to the most disempowered small farmers and artisans. This victory is also about power-shifting, and is proof that collective, peaceful, sustained action can work, even when we are up against multi-billion dollar goliaths.  Thank you for your support!

And, perhaps you are interested in donating for our next campaign. There is still much work to be done!


  1. Thank goodness! There is something so peculiarly terrible about having a treat – a completely unnecessary indulgence – produced by means of child abuse. Thank you Hershey!

  2. I agree. It is excellent that the internet can be used to put such pressure on otherwise impervious organisations. Is there a follow up campaign we can support to raise the issues which create the pressure on parents to allow their children to be taken into forced labour?

  3. Great to hear. Is there a follow-up campaign to make sure that farmers get fairly paid so they can take care of their own needs and not have to rely on child/cheap labour to provide for their families?

    • Thanks Wendy and GoodIsLove for supporting this issue. For now, the best way we can ensure that farmers are paid fairly is to choose fair trade chocolate, which guarantees a minimum price, as well as additional funds for community development. Also, you can help us ensure that Hershey follows through on its commitment by sending them an action email/thank you – http://www.greenamerica.org/takeaction/hershey/

  4. Begin teaching your child essential academic skills early in life. Play educational games and spend as much time reading to them as possible. This will help them be successful in school and will also allow the two of you to spend quality time together, increasing your child’s confidence and self-esteem.

  5. Fantastic website you have here but I was wanting to
    know if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed here?

    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get advice from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!

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