The Hershey Co. logo

The Hershey Co. said Wednesday it is taking measures to ensure that the palm oil it uses is not linked to deforestation or labor and human rights abuses.

The chocolate and candy company said it has revised and strengthened its existing palm oil policy and joined The Forest Trust, an international nonprofit focused on environmental sustainability and economic justice.

The trust will help Hershey develop supply chain verification measures to ensure the Dauphin County-based chocolate and confectionery giant only buys palm oil that "does not contribute to the destruction of forests or the exploitation of workers and local communities."

Hershey said it will work with suppliers to ensure those aims are met, and will find alternate suppliers when necessary. Its full policy statement is available here (PDF).

Palm oil is frequently used in packaged foods to improve product texture and increase shelf life, according to Hershey's website.

Palm oil plantations in the tropics have contributed to labor exploitation and environmental degradation, including destruction of endangered species' habitat, according to the World Wildlife Federation and other environmental organizations.

Back in 2011, Hershey joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and pledged to source all its palm oil from RSPO-certified suppliers by 2015. In December, Hershey said it had met that goal, more than a year ahead of schedule.

Earlier this month, Hershey announced an expansion of Learn to Grow, a component of its cocoa sustainability initiative. 

Tim Stuhldreher is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers business and finance. He can be reached at or (717) 481-6137. You can also follow@timstuhldreher on Twitter.