Friday, September 13, 2013

Just in Time: Chocolate for Yom Kippur

It's never too late to keep a promise. One of the things that sweetened the experience of the GRI Global Reporting Conference in Amsterdam in May 2013 was the free chocolate dispensed with a smile by Tony's Chocolonely at a stand in the exhibition area and throughout the conference. In return for an even bigger gift of free chocolate, I promised to write about Tony's Chocolonely on the CSR Reporting Blog.

Chunky Chocolate with a Fair Trade taste

Yes, it has taken me only 4 months, but it's now quite opportune as it's the Eve of Yom Kippur, and atonement and reparations are the order of the day. So, I atone for not fulfilling my promise so far, and attempt to repair my tarnished integrity by doing so, possibly earning myself a better chance of being inscribed in the Book of Life for yet another year. I hope so. The year ahead promises to be an exciting one - and a whole lot sweeter now that I have discovered Tony's Chocolonely.

Arjen Boekhold dispensing chocolate with a smile
Of course, chocolate comes second to ice-cream on my indulgence league-table, but in this case, it's very special chocolate. "The Tony’s Chocolonely slogan ─ “on the way to 100% slavery-free chocolate” ─ means Tony’s is 100 percent committed to ending chocolate slavery and to giving customers a slavery-free chocolate choice." 

Slavery in chocolate is still prevalent enough to put us off our daily (hourly?) treat.  The “good life” is still a distant dream for many cocoa farmers and the problems of child and forced labor are still very much in evidence. Based on estimates for the year 2013, at least 460,000 people (children and adults) in West Africa work as cocoa “slaves”, of which about 15,000 to 30,000 children are trafficked into slavery (human trafficking).

This is what Tony's Chocolonely says about slavery in the chocolate industry in West Africa:
"There’s a nasty ingredient hidden in that sweet chocolate bar: Slavery. That’s right, lurking in the shadows of the monolithic chocolate industry, modern-day slavery is common practice in many cocoa-producing countries. West Africa, accounting for 60 percent of the world’s cocoa supply, is a notorious haven for chocolate slavery, most often taking the form of child labor abuse. In the Ivory Coast and Ghana, children, hoping for a better life, are lured onto cocoa plantations and tricked into slavery. Most are under the age of 16, working excessively long days, for little or no pay, under physical and mental duress, with no option to leave."
Tony's Choc has a different approach, based on the development of direct relationships with farmer cooperatives, working together to develop programs with specific goals and targets for production, in order to support the development of farmer organizations. This means that Tony's Chocolonely has its own  Bean-to-Bar segregated supply chain, through which the cocoa beans of the farmer cooperatives are shipped directly to the production facility. This way, the folks at Tony's Choc know exactly where the beans in their chocolate come from.

In 2012, Tony's Chocolonely signed long-term contracts with two cocoa farmer cooperatives: ABOCFA (Ghana) and Ecookim (Ivory Coast), committing to a five-year purchasing agreement in which the farmers can be certain there is a buyer for their cacao, and at a good price. With the certainty of a buyer, the farmers invest in improving their farms, professionalize and grow. In buying directly from the farmer,  intermediary trade is effectively eliminated and the farmer gets more compensation.   Within this long-term arrangement, Tony's Chocolonely facilitates training for farmers, enabling increased cacao productivity per hectare and also drives awareness of the need to eliminate child and forced labor and help strengthen the position of women.

ABOCFA is a farming cooperative of around 400 farmers in 13 communities in Ghana. In 2008, the ABOCFA farmers gained organic and Fairtrade certifications, becoming the first such operation in Ghana to do so, based on interest expressed by Cadbury's for the Green and Black label. However, after the subsequent acquisition of Cadbury's by Kraft (now Mondelez), interest in ABOCFA farmers' Fairtrade organic cacao ceased, leaving hundreds of farmers wondering how they would recoup their investment. Enter Tony's Chocolonely, who in 2012 became the first purchaser of the Ghanan ABOCFA cacao, turning it into that fabulous-tasting chunky chocolate that 1,600 delegates at the GRI Conference in Amsterdam could enjoy. Me included. Part of Tony's Choc's approach is to help drive interest in the ABOCFA cooperative, to attract more buyers and help ensure the sustainability of the operation. In the Ivory Coast, Tony's Chocolonely purchases from a single village of 128 farmers, working under the auspices of the bigger cooperative union. Again, these farmers have achieved Fairtrade certification and revenue from sales is reinvested to drive increased efficiencies and professional long-term supply.  

Arjen Boekhold recently visited both Ivory Coast and Ghana, taking with him a generous supply of 'Bean-to-Bar' chocolate with him, so the farmers could taste the chocolate which was made from their own cocoa beans. This made them very proud. For many of them, it was the first time they tasted chocolate at all. Can you believe that? Arjen reviewed the cooperative activities and the ways in which funds to support human rights in the chocolate supply chain have been used. For example, Tony's Chocolonely initiated and supported funding for an awareness campaign on (child) slavery and women's rights, and also provided funds for a cocoa warehouse. The collaboration is as sweet as the chocolate itself.
Photo with permission from Tony's Chocolonely

Check out Tony's Chocolonely also on Facebook.
More importantly, go buy some!
Even more importantly, go eat it!
But maybe not on Yom Kippur :)

(Oh and by the way, for all those of you observe Yom Kippur, the CSR Reporting Blog, and me, wish you Well over the Fast and that you should be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy, safe, prosperous and happy year ahead!) (Even if you don't observe Yom Kippur, we wish you that anyway, except for the Fast bit).

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: The Concise Guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting AND Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Anonymous said...

Ellen, my name is Molly Zeff, and I work at Equal Exchange, a Fair Trade company that imports chocolate, coffee, tea, and other products.

Thank you for highlighting such an important issue that few people know about! Equal Exchange, like Tony's Chocolonely, also offers Fair Trade, organic chocolate all over the U.S. and educates consumers about the issue of child labor and child slavery in the mainstream cacao industry. We partner with several different faith-based NGOs, including American Jewish World Service. Every time a synagogue or other Jewish organization orders chocolate or any of a number of other products - coffee, tea, cocoa, etc. - AJWS receives back 15 cents per pound towards their own work. If folks are interested in receiving Fair Trade chocolate at a wholesale price, they can learn more about the products here: (they can log in for the cheaper prices) or call us at 774-776-7366.

I just thought you might want to let others know about a source of ethical chocolate that’s right here in the States. In fact, 10,000 congregations are already using our chocolate and coffee for serving, re-sale or fundraising.

elaine said...

Hi Molly, thanks for writing. Sounds like Equal Exchange is doing fabulous work. I am sure readers from the U.S. will find this of interest. Best regards, Elaine

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