Articles You May Have Missed

Sharing Citizenship: Unleashing the Skills and Passion of Your Employees

J.P. Bilbrey is Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer for The Hershey Company, the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery. More about Bilbrey below.

How can unleashing the skills and passion of your employees unlock the true value of citizenship?  

Since Milton Hershey founded our company in the late 19th century, The Hershey Company has had a commitment to more than just making great-tasting products—we also have a long track record of helping children in need. Beginning with the creation of the Milton Hershey School in 1909, we have been dedicated to giving children from underprivileged backgrounds the skills, education, and support they need to build bright futures and lead successful lives.

We are proud of that history and the philanthropic values embedded in our company and its operations. Just as our company’s products and services have evolved and expanded over the past 120 years, our corporate citizenship efforts have also continued to progress.

A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting with the President of Ghana to discuss our long-standing partnership and Hershey Company investments in cocoa communities. During our conversation, I learned that while the work we are doing to support cocoa farmers and their families was important, the country also needed help with its school feeding program to provide basic nutrition to the children of Ghana. At that moment I realized we weren’t fully using the greatest asset our company has—the incredible passion and skills of our employees with world-class expertise in food science, agriculture, food production, logistics, and nutrition.

Hershey has long been about supporting children in need, including education, so this discussion sparked an idea.

Could we better focus our efforts to help children make the most of their education by providing energy and nourishment so children can focus on their studies rather than their stomachs?

Hershey has since designed a new global platform for our global corporate citizenship efforts that gives us not only a sharp focus, but unleashes the value of our employees’ unique knowledge and skills to add value that goes far beyond just donating money. This global initiative, what we like to call Nourishing Minds, provides basic nutrition to help children learn and grow.

The need for greater investment in nutrition worldwide is clear. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five. Sixty-six million school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world—23 million in Africa alone. Investing in nutrition also has a strong return on investment, with every dollar spent bringing $15 in return, given the reduced health risk and improved long-term impact on the economy and earnings.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1]

As a company that has been supporting education for a century, providing children with the nourishment they need to focus on learning and reaching their full potential is a natural evolution of our longtime citizenship strategy.

However, global malnutrition is an incredibly complex issue that no single organization—public, private or non-profit—can address alone.

Our ambitions for Nourishing Minds are simple and realistic: build partnerships with the best experts on the ground and focus on the issues where our expertise in food production and processing could add the most value. And we believe our approach reflects this. The outcome of this work will provide great-tasting, nutritious food for children in need, and we are investing in the agriculture and food processing systems required for access to safe and affordable nutrition. We are also leveraging our expert R&D capabilities to identify more sustainable sources of protein and nutrients as well as learning a great deal about the important emerging African marketplace. As we partner with the communities and governments in their growth and social and economic development, we are afforded the opportunity to develop and create compelling and relevant commercial products down the road.

Initiatives like Nourishing Minds aren’t just the right thing to do, but increasingly, an expectation of consumers, who are looking for great-tasting snack products they also feel good about eating. For example, 81 percent of Millennials say they expect companies to make a public commitment to CSR (Forbes).

Eighty-four percent of consumers care about reducing poverty (Edelman 2012) and 83 percent of consumers care about alleviating hunger and homelessness (Edelman 2012).

And while Nourishing Minds will touch communities around the world, including programs that provide nutritious food to underserved children here in the United States, we are launching work in Ghana, where the idea was ignited. This specific program is called Energize Learning. A cross-functional group of Hershey food experts helped develop Vivi, a peanut-based protein supplement that will be distributed to more than 50,000 children every day by 2016 working closely with the Ghana School Feeding Program and our non-profit nutrition partner Project Peanut Butter. We have taken Vivi from idea to action in just 20 months, with Vivi packets now in distribution, free of charge, to 130 Ghanaian schools.

Hershey funded and supervised the construction of the Vivi manufacturing facility and our employees and are overseeing the production and distribution of the product. We also intend to source the groundnuts locally in Ghana, which helps build the local market for Ghanaian groundnuts as well as improve farmer livelihoods. The program will help address Ghana’s priorities in reducing hunger and malnutrition, increasing school enrollment and retention, and boosting domestic food production.

Nourishing Minds is a platform that taps into our employees’ passion and professional expertise and is a strategic model for how we can combine commercial capabilities with purpose.

We’ve already seen through our work in Ghana how unleashing the combination of employee passion and expertise creates value and impact that isn’t possible through traditional philanthropy or monetary donations. It has been an incredible learning and innovation opportunity for our business and our employees, who have leveraged their creativity and entrepreneurialism in a country where access to needed resources can be challenging.

Our strategic shift in citizenship has brought forward the best qualities of The Hershey Company and our employees—our belief in purpose beyond just profit-making, our desire to continuously learn and innovate, and our dedication to excellence in all that we do. It has also been one of the most rewarding as we witness firsthand the children benefitting from our work. To learn more about Nourishing Minds and Energize Learning, click here.

[1] The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition- Building Healthier Supply Chains 2014

Author Biography:

J.P. Bilbrey is Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer for The Hershey Company, the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery. Bilbrey has more than 30 years of consumer packaged goods experience and has been instrumental in the growth of some of the world’s largest and best-known brands. He has broad international experience, working in more than 50 countries around the world.


Subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter Ethisphere Insights for the latest articles, episodes, and updates.


Free Magazine Access!

Fill out the form below, and get access to our Magazine Library

Free Magazine Access!

Fill out the form below, and get access to our Magazine Library