Ahhh, Hershey’s. How much more relevant could they be on this day of excessive chocolate consumption? Lamentations on Single’s Awareness Day aside, Hershey’s is a company with a very high profile, both domestic and abroad. You can find a Hershey’s product calling out to every young child in the checkout aisles of grocery stores the whole world around, or in every baking aisle in a store, or dancing across our TV screens in one chocolatey form or another. Additionally, they’re considered a local company for Bucknell students – collaborations with the Milton Hershey school are not uncommon, nor are trips to the beloved Hershey Park.
But what does Hershey Co. do besides help us expand our waistlines and indulge our guilty pleasures? My investigation began on the Hershey Company website. It was easy enough to find an entire section of their site dedicated to corporate social responsibility, which was interesting to explore. One of the first links they provide is for their 2010 CSR Scorecard, which can be found here, and which provided me with a wealth of interesting knowledge. It’s also worth a skim if you’d like to feel less guilty about all of the chocolate that you eat!
From everything that the scorecard and Hershey’s website says, Hershey’s is dedicated to doing the greatest good that it possibly can. From sustainable supply chains to environmentally friendly production practices, and employee diversity and happiness to philanthropic funding, Hershey’s truly aims to do it all. It is obvious that Hershey’s does not subscribe to Friedman’s philosophies on business; one of Hershey’s core values is that a significant percentage of their profits goes towards the Milton Hershey School, a boarding school for disadvantaged youth. A singular responsibility towards profit is clearly not how Hershey’s operates.
And recently? This past week, Hershey’s announced that they will “expand and accelerate programs to improve cocoa communities by investing $10 million in West Africa” in order to “increase their cocoa output by 50 percent through modern methods… Doing so will increase school attendance and improve community health” (taken from this article in the Ghanaian Chronicle, published today). This will help Hershey’s achieve their goal of producing their Hershey’s Bliss product line with 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified farm cocoa. At the same time, Hershey’s announced that three of their plants are now zero waste to landfill, or in simple english, that their routine manufacturing waste has been eliminated from landfill disposal. Around 90% of the waste is recycled, with the remaining 10% converted to energy. Greenhouse gas emissions were reduced 15% from 2008 levels by the end of 2011, and solar panels at factories save hundreds of metric tons of greenhouse gasses per year (information found in this article from ewire.com, a leading press source of environmental news).
So what does all of this show? To me, it shows a company that lives by Freeman’s stakeholder theory. Many of Hershey’s actions are not prompted by legislation, unlike car companies increasing gas mileage of their vehicles to meet government standards, and they are not prompted by public outrage, unlike Nike’s recent scandals with sweatshops or Toyota’s delayed recalls of stuck gas pedals in late 2009. Instead, they seem to honestly and truly care about “a greater good” – trying to benefit every potential stakeholder they have, whether it is the farmers they buy from in Africa, their customers (better quality products), their employees (high safety ratings, progressive wellness programs, company diversity, pride in competitive salary and benefits), the community (the Milton Hershey school, clean air and water, Project Fellowship homes, the Dollars for Doers program, among many others), and even you and me – by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Hershey’s has helped to make our air cleaner.
By creating so much positive press in so many different areas, Hershey’s has managed (with a few exceptions) to build a stellar reputation. Forbes ranks Hershey’s as #1 in Most Trusted Companies, and #1 in Ethical Leadership – if that’s not impressive, then I’m not sure what is. This has led to steady financial growth, which has paid off sweetly (pun intended) for Hershey’s investors.
But of course, it’s not all sugar and sweetness in the land of Hershey… speaking figuratively, of course. Last fall, Hershey’s made headlines when international college students, working for the summer at Hershey’s, staged a walkout and protest over unfair working conditions. The students, who were promised immersion in American culture and a fun summer job, were instead treated like “cheap slave labor”, complete with forced heavy lifting and threats of revoked visas if the students complained. A suit was filed against the State Department, who oversees the placement of the students, Hershey’s, and CETUSA, who manages the program for the State Department.
Of course that is terrible news. Aside from terrible working conditions on Hershey’s behalf and weakening our relationship with other countries, it also makes the State Department (and by extension, our government) look heartless. But to be honest, I found very, very little else in the press that spoke negatively of Hershey’s. How rare is it these days to find a company with a mostly positive track record? And in all other aspects of employee treatment, Hershey’s appears to go above and beyond to ensure employee satisfaction and wellness.
Hershey’s seems to be, in almost every respect, a shining example of a company that lives by Freeman’s Stakeholder Theory. They aim to do “the right thing”, in whatever area that may be, and they try to benefit as many stakeholders as they possibly can (consequentalism, anyone?), often times when it is not required of Hershey’s to do so. The greater good is clearly a concept that Hershey holds dear.
And so, Hershey’s, on this day that you and Hallmark will make millions, I salute you. Thank you for making this world a brighter and sweeter place, thank you for taking the initiative in many places to help out all that you affect, and thank you for making my chocolate consumption a little less guilty.