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Moving Forward or Looking Back – Hershey’s Releases First CSR Report

By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently Hershey’s published its first ever corporate social responsibility report [PDF]. David J. West, President and CEO of The Hershey Company said the company’s commitment to good corporate citizenship dates back to its founding in 1894.

He said, “Today, CSR is an integral part of our global business strategy. Our CSR efforts stretch from our headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to our operations in countries such as Mexico and India, to the cocoa farming villages of West Africa. While we are proud of our accomplishments, including the contributions we make to children in need, we understand that much remains to be done.”

While the report highlights some of the company’s achievements in the area of CSR, such as reducing overall energy use in US offices by 9.55% since 2007, the company is relatively transparent that it has has some work to do.

For example, the report explains, “As this is our first reporting effort, we have not reported on some GRI indicators because we do not currently track the needed information.” Hopefully this is meant to imply the company will be undertaking a program to begin tracking that information.

Triple Pundit commented:

“Released on Monday, the report is a solid first step. Compared to the CSR reports of other companies, it is heavy on platitudes and has a laundry list of what the company says it is going to do, rather than what it has done on the CSR front—but in fairness, much of the tone is the result of issuing a CSR report for the first time.”

On the other hand, the report goes on to say that there is some information it simply won’t be revealing. “In other instances, we are not reporting on indicators because we believe the information is either proprietary or not material to our industry and operations.” Perhaps as time goes by, or more pressure is exerted by stakeholders, the company will further embrace CSR reporting, and will take a few more baby steps toward transparency in this area.

In fact, the company says it has established a new CSR department let by a VP of CSR who reports to the VP of public affairs. The report says:

“To foster engagement across functions and business units, our CSR leadership team currently consists of 22 leaders representing diverse perspectives and business priorities. In addition, three members of the Hershey executive team provide oversight and support through formal sponsorship and participation in quarterly progress meetings.”

While the report does look to the future, discussing what it intends to do on the CSR-front moving forward, it does just as much looking back. Hershey’s spends a lot of time recalling its founder Milton Hershey’s dedication to philanthropy – going so far as to release the report on his birthday.

It is interesting that a company supposedly so dedicated to community engagement has taken this long to make CSR a priority. Cadbury, for example, has long been focused on CSR. Perhaps Hershey’s focus on past good works has been clouding the company’s view that this stuff is important today too.

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