While Haribo attempts to present itself as environmentally aware and advanced in corporate sustainability, I believe it is a facade to distract consumers from their unethical participation in animal cruelty, the lack of human rights for laborers, and their unsustainable packaging. It is concerning that even though alarming information has come out about the exploitation of carnauba plantation workers and horrendous conditions in pig farms, Haribo has not taken any public action to make reparations for those that are being negatively impacted by their company besides launching an investigation. After the documentary came out in 2017, there has not been any recent articles about Haribo, which means that no one has held the company accountable, and their website will mislead any consumers that are trying to do research. If Haribo really wanted to change, they should have presented the findings of their “investigation” and announced what changes they were making to their company.
Gummy bears are made out of gelatin, carnauba wax, corn syrup and starch, sugar, water, various food colorings, and flavorings that come from fruit juices. It seems like a simple list, but unfortunately, two main ingredients are harmful to animals and fuel inequality in those industries. The first one is gelatin, which is a protein substance taken from collagen, a natural protein present in the tendons, ligaments, and tissues of mammals. To create the gelatin, the tissues, skin, and bones of animals, usually cows or pigs, have to be boiled. The gelatin industry is known for animal cruelty, especially in pig farms, where the animals have to live in tight spaces within their own excrements and dead. They are often deprived of drinking water as well. Second is the carnauba wax, which is obtained from the leaves of carnauba leaves, and they only grow in northeastern Brazil, one of the poorest regions in the country. This wax is a highly sought after commodity as it is used in products like car oil, shoe polish, dental floss, and so much more. In a German documentary Markencheck, it was revealed that laborers that cut down the carnauba leaves in the plantations live in horrible conditions, in addition to having a low wage of about $12 a day. Many workers are forced to sleep in trucks or have no shelter at all, and they have no access to toilets and clean drinking water. Haribo’s plastic packaging is another issue. The packaging is made out of polypropylene, which Haribo’s website claims to be “generally easy to recycle,” even though there are hardly any facilities that can properly recycle polypropylene. In the end, Haribo bags ends up in landfills and still relies on the crude oil industry to produce the polypropylene.
Haribo gummy bears are produced in their factories, which can be found at 16 different locations worldwide. Each new product is first sketched by hand, and the template is used to create 3D sample that will make a plaster prototype. Once the new shape is perfect, several hundred stamps are created for production. All of the ingredients mentioned in the paragraph above are mixed together in large factories, cooked, and then poured into the bear-shaped molds. After being molded, the gummy bears are put into a large drying rooms with light-grade oil to keep the candy soft and fresh. The carnauba wax is applied to give them a glossy look and prevent them from sticking together. Finally, they are packaged and transported to be sold in shops all around the world. Haribo focuses a lot on their packaging than how they transport or manufacture their products, leading me to assume that they have not considered switching to renewable energy for their factories and transportation. Haribo’s slogan is to make kids and adult happy, but as mentioned above, the sourcing of the ingredients show a more bleak image for the company. Haribo sources its gelatin from GELITA, and the pig farms in northern Germany are unsanitary and cruel. Haribo executives have told the media that they will audit its suppliers, ranging from direct suppliers to single farms, and they will be as transparent as possible with their consumers. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any recent articles about the outcome of Haribo’s efforts to investigate the carnauba plantations and pig farms. As for factory workers that actually produce the gummy bears, I did not find any problematic information. The website page for employment states that Haribo aims to create a family-work environment, and they offer health insurance and other benefits. While Haribo claims to be sustainable and ethical in their supply chain and work environments, articles online have proven otherwise, and until Haribo publicly announces what they have done to become more sustainable, they cannot earn a high rating.
Haribo is a German company founded by Hans Riegel in 1920 in his own kitchen. Born in Bonn, Riegel trained to be a confectioner and eventually launched his own line of sweets. Today, Haribo produces in ten countries, is available in 100 countries, and employs about 7,000 people. What surprised me during my research was that Haribo’s website has multiple pages about their corporate responsibility to the environment, their employees, and human rights. Even though there is a short corporate social responsibility statement, listed goals to reduce CO2 footprint, and vague accolades about good employment treatment, it feels a bit hollow, especially in regards to their actions on sustainability. Haribo writes that they are constantly trying to reduce packaging, improve recyclability, and turn to alternative materials, but then they have a paragraph justifying their use of plastic packaging, claiming that “environmental organizations have come to the conclusion that the environmental impact of [plastic] packaging materials – based on the current state of science and technology – is generally no lower than that of petroleum-based packaging materials when viewed from an overall environmental perspective.” This tells me that the whole page of about sustainability is essentially meaningless because they have no real intention of changing their packaging or meeting goals. The website makes Haribo seem like an environmental conscious company leading the way, even though nothing is being changed. In addition, Haribo claims that 90% of their packaging is recyclable, while admitting that many countries do not have facilities to recycle them and that they packaging must be sorted correctly. This puts a lot of the burden on the consumer because Haribo is assuming that people have access to adequate facilities and will dispose the bags correctly. In other words, it does not matter to Haribo where the plastic packaging ends up because they have already presented themselves as being environmentally moral with their “sustainable” packaging.