We are all too familiar with a good ole Hershey’s chocolate bar. Whether it be laying in bed watching Netflix, laughing around a campfire making smores, or wooing our way into our crush’s hearts on Valentine’s Day, Hershey’s an essential part of childhood – or is it?
Hershey is owned in part by the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania, founded as an orphanage in 1909 and now educating over 2,000 students. Yet for a company owned in part by a school, its chocolate seems to be anti-children. While Hershey’s acknowledges that its chocolate travels thousands of miles across the ocean, and that only 20 chocolate bars can be made from every cocoa tree, it fails to mention the 1.4 million children work in cocoa farms in West Africa as child slaves gathering the cocoa. While our Hershey’s chocolate often costs as little as $1, the child slaves cost as much as $30 to purchase.
West Africa houses two-thirds of the world’s cocoa beans (60% in Ghana and the Ivory Coast alone) and Hershey, Mars, and Nestle alone account for 30% of the world’s chocolate production. After bad press in 2001, Hershey’s promised to incorporate more ethical practices. Instead, the amount of child labor rose 21% in the five years following that statement.
The documentary Slavery, a Global Investigation (2001) interviewed a child freed from working in an Ivory Coast cocoa farm. The child had never tried Hershey’s. The filmmakers asked him what he would say to the children eating Hershey’s chocolate bars in America and he replied: “They enjoy something I suffered hard to make – I see no benefit. They are eating my flesh.”
Despite the bad press, Hershey’s has committed to being sustainably certified by 2020. This means that in four years, Hershey’s hopes to include third-party auditors and decrease slavery through best practices. But until then, Hershey’s ethics are not as sweet as the chocolate tastes. Hershey’s is greatly surpassed by companies such as Nestle, which supplies the communities who source cocoa with monitoring and remediation programs to combat child slavery.
When it comes to Hershey’s, the high price we should pay for our chocolate is paid by child slaves. So what does this mean for Halloween coming up? Maybe instead of splurging on extra candy, donate to an organization combatting child slavery (like http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/donate/). And instead of buying Hershey’s, take a second to check out Divine chocolate!
Better World Shopper Ranking: C
Written by Brooke Bonnema