Consumer-facing companies, notably ranging from consumer products company Unilever to McDonald’s Corp., have increasingly invested in sustainable sourcing to meet growing customer requirements. Starbucks, for example, has invested more than $70 million in collaborative farmer programs and activities which directly support improving farmer livelihoods and ensuring a long-term supply of high-quality coffee. Now, The Hershey Company is joining those ranks by announcing it will spend $500 million to produce its chocolate Kisses from more sustainable cocoa.

 

Through its Cocoa for Good holistic cocoa sustainability strategy, Hershey will invest the funds through 2030 to addresses the most pressing issues facing cocoa-growing communities: poverty, poor nutrition, at-risk youth and vulnerable ecosystems. Hershey seeks to drive positive change in these areas through collaborative programs, partnerships and significant investment.

 

“A sustainable cocoa supply depends on a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach to find solutions to the social, environmental and economic challenges facing cocoa-growing communities,” says Susanna Zhu, Hershey’s Chief Procurement Officer. “As a critical player in the cocoa value chain, we are committed to doing our part. Under Cocoa For Good, we continue to work toward a future where there’s a long-term, sustainable cocoa supply, the natural environment is protected, and we are creating better lives for everyone. It’s good for the cocoa farmers, families, communities, chocolate consumers and the success of our business.”

 

About 95 percent of world cocoa output is produced by small farmers, many of whom still use traditional growing methods. Chocolate demand has been growing, and is generally expected to continue significant growth. At the same time, because global yields have remained stagnant, supply increases have come primarily as a result of expansion of cultivated areas. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, for example, are leading producers of cocoa, and many observers say cocoa farming is the driving force behind rapid rates of deforestation in both countries, reports sustainable trade initiative IDH.

 

All of this, Hershey explains, is why there is a critical need for Cocoa For Good, which is expected to impact the lives of thousands of farmers in cocoa-growing regions—with a focus on West Africa, where about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown. The initiative will focus investments and work in four key areas: nourishing children, elevating youth, prospering communities and preserving ecosystems.

 

Toward that goal, Hershey’s strategy prioritizes:

  • Increased family access to good nutrition,
  • Elimination of child labor and increased youth access to education opportunities to give youth in cocoa-growing regions the skills and resources they need to build successful futures,
  • Increased household incomes for women and men to economically empower women and help all farmers support prosperous businesses, and
  • Zero deforestation and increased agroforestry by investing in innovative agroforestry methods such as growing cocoa in shaded areas which can be productive for as much as 15 years longer than when plants are grown in full sun.

 

“Cocoa is a tremendous part of the livelihoods for the people of Côte D’Ivoire and public-private partnerships are critical to improving the lives of people living in cocoa communities and protecting our precious natural resources,” says H.E. Daniel Kablan Duncan, Vice President of the Republic of Côte D’Ivoire. “We value our partnership with The Hershey Company and look forward to working together to bring about the meaningful change that this new investment will catalyze.”

 

What are your thoughts on increasing sustainability? As a consumer, are you willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies which are committed to positive social and environmental impact?