On September 26, our CEO, Michele Buck accepted the Committee for Economic Development's Corporate Citizenship Award. What follows is an abridged version of her acceptance speech.
It is an honor for me to accept the prestigious Corporate Citizenship Award on behalf of The Hershey Company and the approximately 16,000 Hershey team members who make our company the remarkable and special company that it is.
I want to thank my Hershey colleagues for being here with me tonight. You exemplify what is at the heart of our company. A passion and the fight to win in the marketplace. And a compassion and a purpose-driven mindset that brings goodness into everything we do. This award is truly a testament to your leadership.
I also want to acknowledge my family, who makes all of this possible. It is my role as mother to three amazing children that enhances my ability to lead a company with thoughtfulness, ingenuity, and compassion. Thank you for your support, for keeping me grounded, and your unending enthusiasm for the goodness we create together.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME
Since taking the reins at Hershey 18 months ago, I have met and talked with our employees at all levels and across every function. During one of these listening sessions at our Hazleton, PA manufacturing facility, I met two women that work on our Kit Kat line, Michele and Kathy. They asked if I would sign their bump caps as they told me what an inspiration it was to have a woman as the company’s CEO.
As a small-town girl from Carlisle, PA, I am humbled and incredibly proud that as Hershey’s first female CEO, women across the company can “see themselves” in their CEO while they do the front-line work of making the products that our consumers love. That representation is powerful. It speaks to why diversity and inclusion is so important to us.
We’ve ingrained a focus on diversity and inclusion into every aspect of our organization. We are proud to have women leading in critical roles across the business – CEO, CFO, Chief Growth Officer, Commercial Integration, our Kit Kat business, our Walmart customer lead and head of U.S. Supply Chain, to name just a few.
Diversity and inclusion are strategic advantages that are integral to who we are as a company and I am excited about our leadership in this space.
A FIERCE COMPETITOR WITH GREAT COMPASSION
Many of you may not know this, but Hershey has always been about more than just chocolate. One of the first things our founder, Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine, did after starting the company was to establish Milton Hershey School, a cost-free school for disadvantaged children. So, you see, social responsibility has always been woven into the fabric of our company’s DNA. We know that if we are successful, it directly supports the school and our ability to make an impact to important societal issues. That is an incredible motivator for us to aim higher and work harder.
WHERE HERSHEY COMES FROM
From the beginning, Milton Hershey intended to use profits from his business to enrich communities and make a difference. That commitment has been unwavering for nearly 125 years.
He started by making chocolate, a luxury in 1894, accessible to everyone at an affordable price. He built a town with homes for employees and opened Hershey Park, so his employees could have a balanced life that included both work and play.
He was ahead of his time, working to safeguard the environment by developing a cogeneration factory that minimized its environmental footprint. He knew that creating a community that was healthy and thriving would support the business for years to come.
And his greatest gift, Milton Hershey School.
This spirit – the pride that goes into our brand portfolio but also how we share goodness – shapes nearly every decision we make from product innovation to our supply chain. The more successful we are at innovating for our consumers, the greater impact we can make in our communities.
WHERE HERSHEY IS GOING
As we near our 125th anniversary, we are proud of the business we have built and are excited about where we are headed. Our vision is to be an Innovative Snacking Powerhouse and we have a portfolio of brands that consumers love – Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kisses, Ice Breakers, Twizzlers as well broader snacking brands – Skinny Pop, Paqui and Oatmega.
That vision is coupled with our Shared Goodness Promise – a focus to work on some of society’s most pressing challenges that we are capable of help solving. Our Shared Goodness Promise is anchored to our business, our planet, our community, and our future – and it is activated by our remarkable people.
One example our Shared Goodness Promise is our recently launched cocoa sustainability strategy, Cocoa for Good. Earlier this year, we pledged to invest half a billion dollars by 2030 to help create a thriving ecosystem that meets the needs of farmers, their local communities, and the environment.
But our most important work is to do good for the future, for our children. That connection to children is rooted in our relationship with Milton Hershey School. Our employees teach classes on science, technology, and business, and we connect directly with the children socially by creating relationships with group homes, allowing employees to get to know a small group of students and spending time together outside of school and work.
We also are excited about the work we are doing more broadly across the U.S. as we launch The Heartwarming Project. You may have seen our new Hershey’s campaign showcasing its power to create connections and melt the distance between us. In honor of our founder’s greatest heartwarming act – helping kids succeed through the Milton Hershey School – our company recently launched the Heartwarming Project to help kids, parents, and teachers build more meaningful connections and create a more inclusive and empathetic community. We are partnering with leading organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club and We.Org, to provide programs and grants to create a future where social and emotional connections are central in our everyday world. It’s an ambitious goal, but so was inventing a low-cost chocolate bar 125 years ago.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share a little bit about the remarkable people who make all this good work possible. Milton Hershey didn’t start a school by himself – it was a passion shared with his wife, Catherine, that made its creation possible. Likewise, Hershey employees across the business are constantly innovating about the future of snacking and sustainability and their impact on the world.
It’s their creativity, passion and energy that makes what I do possible. It’s this energy that gives me the resounding confidence that Hershey’s best days are ahead of us.
Again, I want to thank the Committee for Economic Development for recognizing The Hershey Company in such a meaningful way. It is truly a privilege and an honor to serve as a torchbearer for one of America’s most trusted companies. I am humbled and grateful for the honor.