It’s no big secret that we’re not fans of the Hershey company around here. Hershey used to fully support child labor, child trafficking and forced child labor, not to mention non-Fair Trade cocoa. Last year Hershey changed their tune, said they wanted to make some changes, and then proceeded to initiate the smallest steps possible to eliminate these practices, meaning, they changed almost nothing. Because of the lack of change occurring within the Hershey company, in August, a coalition of food coops and natural grocers called out Hershey, asking them to REALLY commit to using ethically sourced cocoa. All in all, forty-one consumer-owned grocer cooperatives and natural food retailers operating 65 stores released an open letter in August, telling the Hershey Company to take action to end child slave labor on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast (Côte D’Ivoire) and to fully commit to ethically sourced cocoa produced under fair labor standards. However, one natural grocer was notably missing – Whole Foods. Whole Foods, arguably the largest retailer of organics and Fairly Traded products, refused to sign the letter, which stinks because their voice could have a HUGE impact on this issue. Read on to find out why Whole Foods won’t sign, and find out how you can help.

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Why is Whole Foods supporting Hershey?

Unfortunately, Green America notes that Whole Foods refused to sign the coalition’s appeal. Whole Food’s statement about the issue is as follows:

“We evaluate only products being considered for sale within our stores…We do not include in our review any operational or management decisions of the (supplier).”

First of all, as Green America points out, this means that “Whole Foods is happy to buy Hershey’s chocolates even if the vast majority of Hershey’s profits are tainted by child labor cocoa.” Secondly, Whole Foods may say that they do not consider operational issues, but that’s a flat out lie. In 2010, Whole Foods demanded that as of June 11, 2011, all organic personal care products sold in their U.S. stores MUST BE certified organic. The new guidelines meant that many Whole Foods suppliers needed to become officially certified organic and change their labels and reformulate their products to comply with National Organic Program guidelines. That’s some major operational and management decisions being controlled by Whole Foods, so the fact that they won’t take on Hershey is perplexing.

Whole Foods should respect the rights of children and workers worldwide. They should join other natural food stores who have already told Hershey that ethically sourcing tiny, insignificant amounts of chocolate, does not erase the fact that most of Hershey’s profits include child labor. You may think it’s no big deal, but Halloween is coming and it’s Hershey’s biggest, most profitable season. Halloween season is when Hershey makes the most cash off child labor and Whole Foods is helping them do so by supporting them.

Want to see some change? Green America has a letter up you can sign telling Whole Foods to quit supporting Hershey. Go sign it and while you’re at it, why not tell Hershey what you think of their appalling practices too.

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