I think we could easily call the the Hershey Company the “cool kid on the block.” Growing up, I lived around 1.5 hours away from Hersheypark, and my summers were filled with the sweet sugars of chocolate shakes, the sounds of chocolate bars cracking, and constant trips up the wild ride of Farhenheit. Hersheypark, the theme park within the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, is a family-themed community park that embodies why corporations should just model themselves after the Hershey Company.
The Hershey company began in the 1880s, quickly overtaking other chocolate companies by 1903, and today, could easily be called a monopoly player in the candy industry. Today, Hershey just isn’t a company; it’s a town, with a community, a theme park, resorts, and schools. The fact that Hershey has built a town around its headquarters is a testament to its gargantuan level of success as a company. Success for Hershey also comes in being globally recognized as an environmentally-conscious and sustainable company.
Hershey presents its positive image of CSR through practicing heavy CSV, that contributes to its “good citizen” record in CSR. CSV refers to “creating shared value,” and refers to internal employee engagement, which eventually focuses on community building, keeping employees loyal, increasing profits, and strengthening CSR. CSR refers to “corporate social responsibility,” which involves the branded image that Hershey is presenting to the world as an environmentally-conscious, sustainable and ethical citizen in the business world. Good CSR means anything from a company sourcing their materials from places that are devoid of labor exploitation, to a company practicing prevention techniques to be more sustainable. CSR follows the idea that businesses are allowed to exist because of society, and so have a responsibility to society as part of the shared “social contract.” Simply understood, practicing good CSR is simply good business, and companies that do not do so, will suffer, especially in a world where the rise of global-consciousness surrounding ethical practices continues.
When it comes to CSR, Hershey excels beautifully. Hershey centers its CSR around engagement with its stakeholders and dividing their CSR-related activities into four different groups, all aimed at maintaining their brand of ethical consciousness: Marketplace, Environment, Workplace and Community. The “Marketplace” aspect focuses on conducting business ethically and ensuring that the consumers, the very people purchasing the chocolate manufactured in Hershey’s factories, are engaged with the company. Such a practice is evident with company initiatives such as the Hershey “Track and Field Games” catering to 9-14 year-olds, aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles; indeed, it seems ironic that a chocolate company would invest in a health-awareness event, but the very ironic participation creates an image of Hershey as a responsible and concerned business citizen.
The “Environment” aspect could use some work; while Hershey does excel with their CSR, cocoa outsourcing, for lack of a better term, is pretty messed-up. Cocoa plantations tend to be located in West African communities, where labor exploitation is common, and while Hershey has promised to invest in ensuring these communities are devoid of such practices, it still seems all very secretive. And honesty, while it may hurt a brand image in the short-run, will always serve businesses well.
Despite this drawback, Hershey exceeds when it comes to their “Workplace” aspect of the CSR strategy they follow. This aspect focuses on fostering an inclusive and healthy environment, aided by the corporations’s diversity policies. About 50 percent of the executive board is made up of women (and the CEO herself is one). Hershey also incorporates their “Community” aspect into the workplace by having employees log in volunteer hours; by having their employees engage heavily with communities, Hershey ensures that a shared value is created internally within the company, which reaps in benefits externally, through increased profits and employee loyalty.
Hershey has its strengths and weaknesses, just as its chocolate does, but a good rule of business is to understand that there is no such thing as a perfect company, and there is always room for improvement. To Hershey, I’d say there’s still much work to be done, by ensuring their cocoa outsourcing is ethical. To other companies, I’d say be more like Hershey, because there’s a lot of work to be done.