The Hershey Company, North America's largest chocolate manufacturer, is promising to establish a higher standard for the way it acquires a key ingredient. Hershey's has announced a new a new sustainable sugar sourcing policy, which "establishes rigorous standards to ensure sugar has been responsibly grown and harvested."
Hershey's wants to use nothing but sustainably sourced sugar by 2020. By that time, all United States-based suppliers will be required to conduct independent audits of their refineries and facilities in order to comply with Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit standards. The company says it will conduct annual reviews "to assess the environmental impact of sugarcrop farming." Results of those reviews will be a factor in Hershey's sourcing decisions.
As for international suppliers, the company will work with international suppliers to incorporate third party evaluations to help them meet Hershey's supplier code of conduct and industry best practices on sustainability initiatives. Hershey's Learn to Grow program, which trains famers in "sustainable agriculture practices to responsibly grow and harvest sugar cane," is being deployed as well, starting in Belize.
"We've seen great success from our Learn to Grow program in the cocoa sector and now have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the sugar industry," Eric Boyle, Hershey's director of responsible sourcing and procurement, said in a prepared statement. "The combination of our new sustainable sugar sourcing policy and the new farmer training program will give consumers the assurance that the sugar in our products is responsibly and sustainably grown and harvested."
The company's pledge comes at a time when consumers are demanding more transparency and higher standards from major food brands. Hershey's also plans to sustainably source 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020. Not to be outdone, rival candy producer Nestlé has promised KitKat bars soon will be made only with sustainable cocoa. That follows a move to drop all artificial ingredients from the company's product line.