6.4.4 Extend Corporate Sustainable Sourcing and Certification to Include Young People as Workers and Suppliers

Corporations that depend on small-scale farmers to supply critical produce inputs are increasingly focused on “sustainable sourcing.”  Certification is the tool to achieve sustainable sourcing, which means that production and processing operations meet international standards for labor, environmental and sustainable farming practice.  Corporate drive for sustainable sourcing comes from a combination of factors:  pressure from consumers and investors to be more socially responsible, and the drive to secure a long-term supply of low-cost agricultural inputs, given the increasing global pressures on land. Sustainable sourcing always involves both increasing farmer productivity and improving social and environmental conditions of production, because farmers need an incentive to make social and environmental improvements and a way to cover the costs of these investments, and increased farmer income is itself a social benefit.  One leader in this area, Starbucks, is well known for developing its system for sourcing fair trade coffee and has established targets for achieving 100 percent fair trade in its coffee sourcing.  A larger, less specialized global company, Unilever, was able to certify its main tea brand, Lipton, as sustainably sourced, using a Rainforest Alliance certification.  

Sustainable sourcing practice and certification benefits youth, but this work could be extended.   In many sectors – cocoa for example – a key goal for sustainable sourcing is to eliminate child labor and enroll children in schools.  This work could be extended, however, by certification.

Hershey’s Sustainable Cocoa Sourcing

With global net sales of $6.6 billion, The Hershey Company is among the largest chocolate producers in the world.  In 2012, Hershey committed to purchase 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020, an increase from only 10 percent in 2013. In achieving sustainable sourcing standards, Hershey seeks to advance both the wellbeing of communities involved in cocoa cultivation and processing and the long-term global viability of cocoa production.  To achieve this goal, Hershey’s is investing more than  $10 million in West Africa between 2012 and 2017 to increase farmer productivity by providing access to information and technology, farmer training, cocoa seed nurseries and planting material, farm inputs on credit, village resource centers, and health and education programs. In its sustainability work, Hershey’s partners with multiple public and private institutions, including other confectionary companies on a pre-competitive basis.

In Ghana, Hershey’s has reached some 40,000 farmers (30 percent women) through CocoaLink, a free service providing farmers with information via mobile voice and text messaging services.   The messages contain information provided by the Ghana Cocoa Board and sent in English and a local language. Content most appreciated by farmers include advice on good farming practices, harvesting and post-harvesting advice, and information about social practices such as malaria prevention and reducing child labor.

Hershey has a historical commitment to children. The Milton S. Hershey School in Pennsylvania was created by the company’s founder and today provides free education to more than 1,800 economically disadvantaged children each year.  In Ghana, young people benefit from Hershey’s sustainability work in several ways. Child labor is reduced as Hershey pressures families to comply with labor laws, as farms become more productive and need less labor, and as families earn more and can afford to send their children to schools.  Children and young people benefit from improved health, education and community infrastructure that Hershey supports.  Hershey also invests in school-based Community Resources Centers that provide a computer center and Internet access and related training to students and community members.  And, young farmers have access to information and services as well.  The benefits to children and young people would be extended with a more specific focus on youth in their initiative.