HERSHEY, PA. — The Hershey Co. has organized its corporate social responsibility strategy under the four pillars of marketplace, environment, community and workplace.

In its first Corporate Social Responsibility report issued on Sept. 13, Hershey said during 2009 it created a global cross-functional C.S.R. leadership team to establish a vision and strategy, coordinate resources, align communication, and identify improvement opportunities. The efforts delivered many results during the year, including implementation of a quality assurance program that contributed to no serious recalls in 2009.

“We have quality assurance programs in place everywhere we operate, from our 12 manufacturing facilities wholly-owned and operated by Hershey to our four joint venture plants,” Hershey said. “We also require rigorous standards at the facilities of our 60 third-party manufacturing partners and our worldwide network of suppliers.

All must adhere to Hershey’s high standards of excellence, even where our stringent guidelines exceed local requirements.”

In light of the 2009 peanut recall in the United States, Hershey, which was not affected by the recall, said its scientists volunteered to participate in the U.S. Peanut Safety Task Force. The company said it has implemented all of the task force’s recommendations.

Hershey said it also has committed substantial resources to attaining food safety certification recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative at all of its wholly-owned manufacturing facilities and joint venture operations by the end of 2012.

Hershey recently increased the staffs of its quality assurance workforce and third-party manufacturing and supplier quality teams by 20%, as well as invested $50 million in infrastructure improvements and upgrades to food safety equipment.

Assisting cocoa farmers around the world is another key part of Hershey’s corporate responsibility agenda. The company in 2008 signed a letter of intent to purchase cocoa from La Cooperativa Agropecuaria de Comercializacion y Servicios Multiples “Red Guaconejo,” or La Red, in the Dominican Republic, and this past year Hershey partnered with Atlantic Cacao to buy beans from the cooperative.

“La Red used our purchase as collateral to finance the harvest and collection of a shipment of cocoa — the first ever exported by the cooperative and a milestone in their development,” Hershey noted.

Promoting responsible consumption is important as the company looks to the future. To that end, Hershey in 2009 employed a third-party technical service, as well as in-country legal expertise, to assist with ingredient and nutrition labeling compliance. And in 2010, the company invested in a new system that allows Hershey to handle label-related changes, such as packaging graphics or product formulation changes, more efficiently.

“Hershey was the first company in the U.S. confectionery industry to implement nutrition labeling on its products, 20 years before such labeling became mandatory,” the company said. “Hershey remains committed to helping consumers make informed eating choices.”

A number of steps have been taken in recent years by Hershey to conserve natural resources. Among the changes were a reduction in the overall weight of the company’s recyclable 22-oz Hershey’s Syrup bottles by 7.6%. By redesigning the bottle cap and removing material from the body of the bottle over the past four years, Hershey eliminated the need for 12.5 metric tons of high density polyethylene in 2009 alone.

Going forward, several environmental targets stand out for the company, including reducing green house gas emissions by 15% from primary sources or energy conservation by 2011, reducing water use by 15% by 2011, completing waste audits of all Hershey plants by 2010, and increasing waste recycling in manufacturing plants from 72% in 2009 to 80% by 2012.

Hershey said it plans to issue a full report every two years and to provide an annual update on the development of its strategy and performance in regards to its goals.