In the 1942 film Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman’s character Isla requested that Sam the piano player sing “As Time Goes By.” In it is the famous line, “A kiss is just a kiss.” While that may or may not be true about actual kisses, he was definitely not singing about the Hershey variety.
“When people think of Hershey, they usually think of Hershey’s iconic chocolates — the Hershey Bar, Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — and Hersheypark. In the United States, Hershey conjures up innocent childhood pleasures and enjoyable snacks. However, 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…The farmers in this region, which supplies the majority of the world’s cocoa, live in poverty, while major chocolate corporations continue to amass large profits.”
So begins the disturbing tale in “Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Responsibility for the Hershey Company,” a report issued last month — just in time for Halloween — by Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights Forum and Oasis USA.
The cocoa beans sourced by many of the world’s major chocolate companies are independently certified to meet certain accepted environmental, social and labor standards. However, according to the report, Hershey’s is “one major exception to this trend” and “has consistently refused to provide public information about its cocoa sources.”
“While Hershey’s CEO received an $8 million compensation package in 2009, many of the farmers who grow cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that ends up in Hershey products are barely able to cover their costs, and as a result, use unpaid child labor and even forced labor on their farms.”
Founded in 1894 by Milton S. Hershey, The Hershey Company is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America. Hershey once said, “Chocolate is a permanent thing.” Hopefully, the bad policies of the company he founded won’t be.