On March 28, I had the chance to visit with top government officials and cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, where much of the world’s cocoa is grown, about the challenges of growing cocoa sustainably. It’s always a great opportunity to be in West Africa and to hear and learn from our colleagues on the ground, but I always come home with the same conclusion – working in cocoa is really, really hard.
There are so many issues to talk about when it comes to securing a long-term, sustainable cocoa supply: systemic poverty for farmers, lack of infrastructure in communities, limited opportunities for youth, questionable environmental practices, and the list goes on.
Where do we focus? How can we make the biggest impact? How can we move toward a world where cocoa farmers and their families are nourished and healthy, can build prosperous lives for themselves and preserve natural ecosystems for generations to come?
I’m proud to announce that I’ve been on a journey with a team at Hershey to answer these questions. In doing so, we sought the counsel of cocoa-focused NGOs and engaged with local governments and other stakeholders to help us shape a strategy that can really make a meaningful difference.
Now, Hershey is launching Cocoa For Good, a new strategy supported with a $500 million investment in sustainable cocoa. This significant commitment, between now and 2030, represents four new reasons why you can feel good about chocolate:
#1: Our new investment is going to help kids stay healthy, so they can succeed in school and in life. Children can reach their full potential in the classroom when they’re healthy and well-nourished, so we bring nutritious foods to tens of thousands of school children in cocoa-growing communities.
#2: We’re empowering youth with new skills and the support they need to thrive. Today’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders when they’re equipped with the skills and resources to build successful futures, in cocoa-growing communities and beyond.
#3: We’re helping farmers cultivate more prosperous businesses. Strong communities begin with opportunities for men and women to improve their livelihoods, so we’re helping farmers diversify their incomes and build vibrant futures for themselves and their families.
#4: We’re taking steps to ensure the world’s cocoa supply is abundant in the long term. Cocoa communities thrive when their ecosystems are healthy and their forests are protected, so we’re rehabilitating farms and implementing shade-tree planting.
Our strategy needs time, money, focus, diligence, and most of all, partnerships. We absolutely cannot do this alone, and we’re going to need everyone involved and working together – our suppliers, our competitors, governments and other like-minded organizations – to help us make permanent, positive change. We need our partners to share their learning with us so we can be smarter, to hold us accountable to deliver what we’ve promised, and to tell us where we’re not doing enough or need to think differently.
Over time, we look forward to talking about our progress, tracking our impact and – most importantly – sharing what we’ve learned through our successes and failures. I really think that learning and iterating will be the key to Cocoa For Good’s success.
It won’t be easy to solve the serious challenges facing the cocoa industry today. They won’t be solved fast, and we have no guarantees that any given program will work perfectly. But we must get to the root of these issues and shape holistic, long-term solutions, not short-term fixes.
There’s a lot at stake: families, children’s futures, communities, the long-term success of cocoa and the future of our planet. And that’s why we’re so excited to move forward on this important work with our new Cocoa For Good strategy.
So, we work, we measure, we learn and we continually move toward a better, brighter future.
Blog post originally published here.