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The Hershey Company’s Jeff King: Making Commitments Is ‘Easy,’ Delivering Is Where the Real Work Begins

Originally published at Jeff King is the Hershey Company’s Senior Director of Global Sustainability and Social Impact. The Hershey Company ranked No. 21 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.


Companies compete for mindshare all the time; who has the best Superbowl ad?; can you be pulled away from your social media for a quick five seconds?; and yes, companies even want to talk about the great sustainability work that they do to ensure they are recognized for doing the right thing and making a difference.

I’ve found, however, that saying something is often easier than delivering something. Press releases and public accolades can quickly fade. It is the longer slog — over the next one to five or even 10 years — to keep that commitment top of mind and persevere when it gets hard (or expensive). Then — and often — when you finally deliver your commitment, it is met with the sound of . . . silence. The press or public pressure, you find, has moved on to the next set of commitments companies are making. Today, protecting the environment is a topic that is top of mind, and Hershey is making a significant commitment toward reducing our environmental footprint.

I work for a company that takes commitments extremely seriously. In 2010-2011, the chocolate industry faced significant pressures on cocoa sourcing, with activist and government voices all calling for companies to commit to cocoa certification. Hershey listened, investigated, debated and in 2012 made a commitment to certify 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020. I think we were the last major chocolate company to commit. And on January 1, 2020, we delivered what we promised, while most other companies are not delivering on that commitment and moving on to other commitments. To be clear, certification is only part of the cocoa puzzle, and other companies are doing great work. But I do know that I work at a company that believes in “promises made, promises kept,” and that means something.

Today, The Hershey Company announced several important steps it is taking to address the issue of climate change. We are committing to a new Science Based Target (SBT) to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint with specific actions toward some of our larger areas of GHG emissions, including renewable energy, deforestation and packaging. Our target is aggressive: a 50 percent reduction across Scopes 1 & 2 and a 25 percent reduction on Scope 3. Our emissions reduction targets were approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) as consistent with the levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the targets covering emissions from our operations align with 1.5°C temperature pathways, the most ambitious designation available through the SBTi process.

I’m extremely proud of the work done by the company to get to this place. We’ve been developing our SBT for two years, engaging across the enterprise to build an inventory and baseline of our GHG emissions—from farm to factory to end-use of our products. As of the time of this writing, there are 1,205 companies committed to the Science-Based Target Initiative, and 593 companies have released targets, with 407 companies making targets that meet the 1.5°C pathway. We are in good company with this commitment.

Delivering this target will be hard work, not just for the Sustainability team, but for every person working at The Hershey company. We will all need to do our part. Hershey has started “Green Teams,” voluntary groups at each of our sites that will work to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption and eliminate waste. As part of our climate announcement today, Hershey also released new commitments toward reducing and improving our packaging, promising to reduce another 25 million pounds of packaging material and moving all our plastic packaging to recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030. We are also making great strides on moving our energy usage to zero-emissions energy, announcing two new Power Purchase Agreements with more green energy agreements on the way. Finally, we released a comprehensive global deforestation policy, which brings together, elevates and expands commitments we’ve previously made across multiple commodities. This means that our supply chain and purchasing teams will all be working with our suppliers on systems change in how we source our ingredients, all the way down to farm-level interventions.

Again, delivering will be critical. The Forest 500’s 2021 report indicates that about one-third of companies with at least one deforestation commitment have not reported on their progress toward those commitments in the last two years. We collectively must do better if we are to make real progress across all companies and industries—commit, deliver, report. In other words—promises made, promises kept.

So, how do I feel about my company being the 594th company to release a Science-Based Target, solidifying our commitment towards the global fight toward mitigating climate change? Proud. Proud that we’ve made another important promise, and confident the promise will be kept. And that makes me feel extremely hopeful about the company’s and the planet’s future.

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