Like all manufacturing, producing Hershey’s iconic chocolate bars and other sweets and snacks requires energy, water and resources; Hershey is on a mission to reduce that impact. In fact, in the 1920s, The Hershey Company constructed its own power plant in Hershey, Pennsylvania to support its operations. One hundred years later, that plant is no longer in service; now, its iconic smokestacks stand as symbols of Hershey’s legacy.
In 2021, The Hershey Company announced its commitment to new, science-based targets to reduce its environmental impact in alignment with levels required to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement: a 50 percent reduction across Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which means emissions owned or controlled by the company and a 25 percent reduction in Scope 3 emissions, meaning indirect emissions from suppliers and across the value chain, compared to 2018. Currently, 77% of the company’s electricity consumption is renewable and zero-emission energy.
Reaching those targets by 2030 calls for dedicated efforts across the company and with partners around the globe, says Mark Kline, who is Hershey’s director of commodities and specialty ingredients procurement. The company, says Kline, is already making measurable progress towards those goals by investing in solar power, prioritizing energy efficiency and building a culture that empowers all employees to play a role.
“Hershey is wholly committed to reducing our impact on the environment, conserving natural resources and protecting the farmers and communities we rely on,” says Kline. “We’re excited that team members everywhere are enthusiastically taking part in our sustainability and ESG efforts and finding ways to make a positive impact on the environment.”
A bright future in solar energy
In October, Kline traveled to Falls County, Texas to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for Copperhead Solar & Storage Project, which stands on a sprawling field outside of Waco. Having signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with National Grid Renewables, which is the project developer, Hershey is an “off taker” in the project, which means the company has committed to buying a portion of the power generated and the rest will be available for purchase by the local community.
“Together with customers like The Hershey Company, National Grid Renewables is helping to build a clean, fair and affordable energy future,” said Blake Nixon, president for National Grid Renewables. “Projects like Copperhead promote sustainability and economic vitality at both global and local levels."
Copperhead is Hershey’s third solar-power partnership. In addition, the company partnered with global renewable energy developer BayWa r.e. to fund a solar farm in Camden, North Carolina. In Denton, Texas, Hershey worked with National Grid Renewables for the development of the Noble Solar Project. Both of these projects are now operational. Taken all together, the difference in emissions from these three solar projects will be equivalent* to taking nearly 79,000 gas-powered vehicles off the road per year.
Kline says the company consulted with Edison Energy to find the right projects and partners for these long-term commitments. “You spend months negotiating these kinds of projects, talking about the pricing and volume of energy and the benefits to Hershey, the community and the environment. It takes a lot of time for them to get online and connected to the grid,” he says. “It’s exciting to see it all come together.”
Conserving natural resources for the next generation
Reducing energy and water consumption is another priority for Hershey. And it’s something that’s not just coming from directives at the top—many ideas come from employees, themselves. “We have set ambitious science-based targets to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint aligned with the 1.5° temperature pathways for a better future,” says Matt Silveira, who is Hershey’s environmental sustainability manager. “Every effort is important as we work towards our sustainability goals.”
For more than two years, at Hershey facilities around the globe, “Green Teams,” made up of passionate employees have been identifying ways to reduce waste and conserve energy and to build excitement around sustainability initiatives; they’ve even challenged employees to competitions to see who can reduce energy and water usage at home. “We’ve been working to enhance the culture around energy efficiency, so that everyone is looking for opportunities and finding ways they can make a difference,” says Silveira.
In 2021, Hershey formalized those efforts when it joined the ENERGY STAR Challenge for the Industry, which calls on businesses to reduce their energy intensity by 10 percent within five years. On three-day-long “treasure hunts,” Hershey employees, joined by external experts, roam factories and facilities, searching for opportunities to save energy, like installing high-efficiency lighting, or upgrading systems and equipment. Within just one year, a Hershey manufacturing facility in Brazil met the 10 percent reduction goal.
To further improve its energy and water usage, Hershey has been installing real-time meters at all of its U.S. manufacturing facilities in order to analyze data on electricity, natural gas and water usage to uncover energy saving opportunities; teams are also installing steam traps monitoring systems, in order to better mitigate energy losses and identify more efficiency improvement opportunities. And at the Hershey headquarters building, the company is replacing a cooling system with water-efficient equipment that is expected to reduce well water usage by approximately 300 million gallons annually.
Working towards a brighter future with “more moments of goodness”
Both Kline and Silveira say they’re proud to work for a company like Hershey that’s not just focused on its products, but on its purpose. That purpose, says Kline, stays true to the vision of Milton Hershey, who launched the company more than 125 years ago to make quality chocolate that millions of people could afford. “In doing so, he made more moments of goodness in people’s lives,” says Kline.
Kline believes that the company’s founder would be proud of the steps the company is making toward its sustainability commitments. Already, Hershey is getting close to reaching those ambitious targets it set for 2030, having reported a 48% reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions against a 2018 baseline and an 18% reduction in scope 3.
Of course, there’s still progress to make and a commitment to continue meeting those goals, even as the company grows and acquires new businesses, like the recent acquisitions of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels and Pretzels, Inc.
“By setting aggressive goals, investing in innovative solutions and measuring our impact,” says Kline. “Hershey aims to reduce our environmental impact for the long-term sustainability of our business and those that rely on it and for future generations.”
*Calculated using the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator. This calculator uses marginal emissions rates.