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Hershey Unwraps New Sustainability Goals, Sets Higher Bar for Chocolate Supply Chain

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Back in the day, a chocolate bar could evoke many simple emotions — happiness, satisfaction, nostalgia — but unless you ate too much, guilt probably wasn’t one of them. That started to change as consumers became aware of the high environmental and social costs of cocoa production — and of many other products.

Now, one of the biggest names in chocolate says it is taking steps to reduce harms in its supply chain and, hopefully, make a candy bar just a candy bar again instead of an ethical problem for consumers.

“Climate change is one of the most urgent threats to our planet that we face today,” Michele Buck, president and CEO of The Hershey Co., said this week. “In order to deliver on our purpose to make more moments of goodness, we must operate with sustainability at the forefront and commit to doing our part to address climate change. We will continue to use our scale and apply the full force of our business to reduce our greenhouse emissions and drive climate action forward.”

Hershey announced in 2019 that it would audit its global operations and develop science-based targets for greenhouse gas reduction. This week, the company said it was ready to launch a “comprehensive, global approach to reduce emissions through targeted investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy [and] packaging innovations, as well as sustainable land-use policies.” The key facets of its initiative include:

  • Ending deforestation across its supply chain by 2030.  Hershey said it already has distributed more than 7.4 million cocoa trees and 921,000 shade trees to “promote biodiversity, food security and income diversification” in cocoa-growing regions.
  • Investing in sustainable energy projects around the world, including solar farms. Hershey wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2024.
  • Advancing sustainable packaging initiatives. The company set a new goal to reduce packaging weight by 25 million pounds by 2030, and is targeting 100% of its plastic packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030.

“These environmental commitments are critical to the long-term sustainability of our business,” said Jeff King, senior director of global sustainability and social impact. “The work is interconnected across our business and requires us to bring together all efforts across the company, from manufacturing, energy buying [to] packaging, to make it work seamlessly to reach our goals.” 

Hershey’s statement did not address the other major problem associated with cocoa production in third-world countries: slavery and human trafficking. But like other major confection producers, the company separately has set guidelines for its suppliers to follow to address this scourge.

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