Dutch investigative journalist Teun van de Keuken was shocked when he discovered that much of the world’s chocolate production has a hidden association with slavery and child labour. He got angry, he got frustrated, but then he got creative.
After some publicity stunts (involving having himself arrested as a ‘chocolate criminal’ for being complicit in slavery, and finding four boys who had worked as slaves on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast to provide evidence), he founded a better kind of chocolate company. It’s a growing purpose-driven commercial business , full of people who believe the best way to protest against something wrong is to do something right. It’s not just a campaigning organisation.
The company is Tony’s Chocolonely. And with a focus on humour, love and celebration this ‘Willy Wonka’ is having a real impact in an industry very much in need of change.
The Netherlands-based ethical confectionery business has partnered with trading companies in Ghana and Ivory Coast to buy cocoa beans directly from the farmers. The very first Fair Trade bars hit the supermarket shelves in 2005 and their number one priority remains eradicating slavery from the global chocolate industry.
In 2020 Tony’s Chocolonely accelerated its mission to achieve a 100% slave-free chocolate industry with a major €36 million investment in the business by Verlinvest and JamJar: “It is important that we can continue to grow internationally,” explains ‘Chief Chocolate Officer’ Henk Jan Beltman, “so that more and more people – consumers, retailers, governments, big chocolate companies and farmers – can be involved in our mission.”
With an audacious founding story, joyful branding and symbolic uneven shaped pieces, slave-free Tony’s Chocolonely’s is inspiring – and damn tasty. This is the story of their road to slave-free chocolate:
Watch ► You can view a full documentary on the story behind how Tony Chocolonely was born.
Accidental ethical business geek Louise Ash is the organiser of Meaning conference – a way of sharing stories about what happens when business is brave enough to think differently.
Teun van de Keuken, Founder, Tony's Chocolonely
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