Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Social Connections or The Lone Hero – Which is Stronger?

Jeff King
Senior Director - Sustainability, CSR and Social Innovation

Our connections with others are one of the defining characteristics of humans as a species.  While we glamorize the lone hero’s journey, as seen across literature and entertainment from Greek mythology to Star Wars, it’s not Luke Skywalker’s stand as the lone Jedi Knight, but his relationship and connection with his friends and ultimately his father, Darth Vader, that is actually the source of his personal power and ultimate triumph (sorry for the spoiler for you 37 people who’ve never seen Star Wars).

What does that have to do with me or The Hershey Company you ask?  For 125 years, Hershey has been providing chocolate to people every day, and building connections is one of the things chocolate does very well.  When you ask someone for a chocolate memory, many will talk about sharing their chocolate with a loved one or making S’mores around a fire with friends.   Today, the idea of making connections with others is increasingly more important because in our busy and often virtual world, social isolation a growing concern among today’s younger generations. It’s even more important to empower people to bridge the gaps between each other, find common ground and build a sense of community.

That’s why The Hershey Company announced The Heartwarming Project last year—to help kids and families build meaningful social connections by giving them the tools they need to build empathy and create a more connected community. Today, we are proud to say we’ve reached more than six million kids through Heartwarming Project partnerships and benefited nearly 698,000 youth through investments.

This year, we continue this commitment with the “Makers of Good” Teen Summit, an event that will convene teens from different backgrounds, locations, and beliefs to discuss ways to overcome social isolation. Our goal is to help teens confidently conquer their school years by giving them the tools they need to overcome social anxiety and take charge of their future.

Hershey isn’t only focused on building connections at home but also in our cocoa growing communities. We are providing life-skill training, equipping children with the social and emotional skills they need to build meaningful connections with one another and their communities. Additionally, through our Energize Learning program, we have distributed ViVi, a highly nutritious peanut-based supplement, to 57,700 students in Ghana– and we are expanding this program to Cote d’Ivoire. Our partnerships with the Ghana School Feeding Program and Project Peanut Butter are core to these efforts.

Our purpose for establishing real connections runs through all our Hershey family brands. For example, in a break from tradition, we reimagined our original milk chocolate bar with the reveal of the new Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Emoji Bar. Our goal is to inspire kids and families to share a chocolate emoji and connect with someone new. But regardless of how our consumers choose to snack, they know they can enjoy meaningful moments with family and friends from a company that inspires shared experiences.

So, reach out to a co-worker who you kind-of-sort-of-know and ask how they are doing today. Invite the neighbors around the firepit for S’mores (shameless plug). Or have over a friend who may be one of the 37 people mentioned before and introduce them to Star Wars.   

For more about how we’re doing well by doing good, read our 2018 Shared Goodness Sustainability Report