It’s well documented that I’m a chocoholic. Yet when RY asked for contributions to our “businesses we believe in” feature, I think they were looking for more than a belief in delicious cocoa-y goodness. So, I’m here to sing the praise of a chocolate company whose mission doesn’t leave a bitter taste…
Modern slavery in cocoa production is still rife, with 1.56 million children estimated to be working in illegal conditions in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone. After a stunt involving taking himself to court for “knowingly purchasing an illegally manufactured product”, investigative journalist Teun van de Keuken started making his own chocolate in order to prove that things could be done differently. Tony’s Chocolonely was born with a clear mission – ‘to make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate’.
Every business will hit bumps in the road on the way to achieving their mission. But what I find interesting is how companies respond to those issues. Recently Tony’s Chocolonely hit the news for being removed from slavefreechocolate.org’s list of ethical chocolate companies. And the timing wasn’t great – Tony’s were in the middle of a campaign calling out some of their larger, well-known rivals for continuing to have slavery in their supply chain.
It was not any breach of their own that caused them to be bumped from the list, but the fact they use Barry Callebaut’s facilities to process their beans (albeit on a completely separated production line) – so in effect being ‘guilty by association’.
Tony Chocolonely’s response was prompt, putting up statements on their website and across their social media and, more importantly, engaging in a dialogue with consumers who had questions in the comments section.
Whether or not you agree with their justification, their speed of response and openness to taking questions is refreshing compared to the ‘sweep it under the carpet’ approach taken by many.
And it’s not just ad-hoc communications: I work in the world of corporate reporting so have to mention their “Annual Fair Report”, which stays true to their brand tone of voice and their trademark transparency.
So why do I believe in them? A powerful mission, a drive to encourage other competitors to adopt the same standards, plus a commitment to sharing the truth, even when that shines a light on their own failings. Oh, and the chocolate is pretty tasty too. All in all, a delicious combination.