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Hershey Ups Palm Oil Sustainability Goals, But NGOs Push for More

In addition to achieving its commitment to source 100 percent mass-balanced RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)-certified palm oil more than a year ahead of its original 2015 commitment, The Hershey Company announced last week it will also work with its suppliers to achieve 100 percent traceable and sustainably sourced palm oil by the end of 2014.

“The Hershey Company is committed to continuous improvement and transparency in our sustainable sourcing efforts,” said Frank Day, Vice President of Global Commodities. “Our move to source 100 percent traceable palm oil is the latest step forward in our efforts to ensure we are sourcing only sustainably grown palm oil that does not contribute to the destruction of wildlife habitat or negatively impact the environment.”

New Supplier Requirements

To achieve its new traceability commitment, Hershey says it will work closely with its suppliers and industry experts to ensure palm oil comes from sustainable sources. Suppliers will be required to independently verify that sources:

• Do not contribute to deforestation or the destruction of wildlife habitat

• Do not clear high carbon stock forests

• Do not contribute to peat land expansion

• Operate in compliance with local laws and regulations

With these requirements, Hershey hopes to identify palm oil producers that are engaging in unsustainable practices, work with suppliers to remediate these actions and, if necessary, remove these producers from its supply chain.

While Hershey’s goals are commendable, NGOs such as WWF and Greenpeace insist RSPO standards do not ensure sustainability: In March, WWF released a report that revealed only 38 percent of RSPO member producers are making adequate progress towards the goal of becoming 100 percent sustainable. Hershey, apparently, is one of them, as the chocolate giant scored 10/12 on WWF’s 2013 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard last month, but in light of the NGO’s own evidence of the lack of efficacy of RSPO standards, the true significance of Hershey’s score is unclear.

Meanwhile, upon hearing Hershey’s announcement this week, Greenpeace acknowledged the goals are a “good step forward,” but continued to urge the chocolate company to move beyond the RSPO, as the Roundtable’s standards do not guarantee Hershey’s palm oil would not come from sources linked to deforestation, according to Just-Food.

"Hershey's must explain to their consumers how they intend to move beyond the RSPO to completely break their links with forest destruction with a clear action plan and policy on No Deforestation. Until they do so, they lag behind other players in the industry such as Wilmar's recent commitment to No Deforestation and consumer companies like Ferrero that have clear plans to move beyond the RSPO," Hamid said, according to the site.

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