Tony's Chocolonely: The fight for slave free chocolate
Chocolate. A household staple in many homes across the western world. Something you subconsciously add to our basket. But do you ever stop to think about where that chocolate has come from?
Our recent speaker event saw Ben Greensmith, the UK country manager for Tony’s chocoloney, speak about the problems of the Chocolate industry and what Tony’s Chocoloney is doing to combat that.
To shed light over the cocoa supply chain, over 60% comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa, which is then bought by the big companies in the chocolate industry. At this point, any connection tying the farmers to these companies is lost. As is any responsibility the western chocolate industries should have over ensuring the farmers are safe, healthy, and able to provide for their family. Here, the many problems only accumulate more so. With the average cocoa farmer on the Ivory Coast earning 67-euro cents a day, sadly 2.1 million children from Ghana and the Ivory Coast alone are forced to leave their education and begin working. On top of that, a further 30,000 adults and children are victims to slavery on cocoa farms. In this age, slavery should never be acceptable, but the fact this form of slavery exists to produce something as unnecessary as chocolate is disgusting.
The real cocoa trade is much unknown, but one man who wanted to change this is Teun van de Keuken, or Tony. After being appalled by the connections of slavery and chocolate, Tony preceded to take himself to court. As what started as a PR stunt, Tony’s actions quickly picked up interest in the Netherlands, leading to the establishment of Tony’s Chocoloney. Tony’s goals were clear; to create awareness; lead by example and inspire other to act. He vouched for traceable cocoa beans, higher prices and only bought from cooperatives with long term strategies. Tony never intended to create a business, and so now the intentions are never the largest profit margin. Interestingly, the operating profit of Tony’s Chocoloney sits at 4%, in an industry average of 40%. And yet the company is still in business, and there is not a bean connected to slavery. Tony’s Chocoloney has set their precedent high, through paying ‘Tony’s Premium’ on top of the standard Fairtrade, ensuring the farmers meet the living income model.
So, are we consuming chocolate that is connected to slavery? In short, the answer is yes. With the world’s largest chocolate companies missing targets to remove child labour from their cocoa supply chains in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2011 (the latter being the Harkin-Engel Protocol which caught the attention of Tony) there is little progress. Just this year, companies like Hershey, Nestle and Mars could not confirm that their chocolate was produced without child labour, with an executive commenting “I’m not going to make those claims”. Clearly, this signifies the lack of interest amongst the big companies to make socio-economically and morally right changes. With Nutella’s cocoa beans coming from Ferrero’s supply, and Cadburys hiding behind their opaque cocoa life campaign, far from the transparency of FairTrade, the issue seems to have ground to a halt. So what can you do? Buy Tony’s chocoloney and tell your friends! After the UK team formed in February this year, Tony’s Chocoloney is starting to seep into major shops such like Sainsbury’s.
Tony’s Chocoloney is not the only brand not to be connected to slavery. Other brands which ethically source their beans just take a bit of extra digging. For example Divine chocolate (which is co-owned by members of Kuapa Kokoo, a cooperative in Ghana) can be bought at the Co-oP, WHsmith and Waitrose. More information can be found at slavefreechcolate.org.
The story ends at perhaps one of the most juxtaposed industries on the planet. One which brings so much joy one side of the value chain yet so much suffering on the other, effortlessly covered by the leaves of the jungle, or should I say the big chocolate companies? Now it’s time to be the change. Turn that sub-conscious decision to buy chocolate into a conscious one. Think. Maybe chocolate would taste a little less bitter-sweet.
To leave you with a quote to think about “Once we know and are aware, we are responsible for our action, and our inaction’
Cicely Day, Talks Team WIDS