Taking live questions via YouTube chat, one of the first questions from its legion of ‘Serious Friends’ was: ‘What is the impact of Covid-19 on your current supply chain? And how is it impacting your farmers?’
Van Zanten said the company’s staff in Europe and the US are working from home, and no one has been affected, yet, by the virus. Regarding producing countries such as Ghana and Cote de’Ivoire, he said because Europe is ahead of other parts of the world in the spread of Covid-19, Tony’s Chocolonely had had time to make contingency plans to protect its farmers.
“We are in daily contact with the cooperatives we work with and supporting them with sanitization guidelines ... and we have an awareness campaign in the communities, putting up posters on keeping safe and we are in constant contact about what we can do further down the line.”
Payments to farmers
He also confirmed that Tony’s Chocolonely is making efforts to speed up the payments to farmers so they have the financial means to help stay safe.
Van Zanten also said that along with a number of other confectionery companies it had been donating chocolate to healthcare workers who are fighting the coronavirus but had decided not to publicise the fact.
Regarding the financial impact for the chocolate industry in general van Zanten said he believed most of the companies would not try to take advantage of the situation in terms of cutting costs. He said the industry needs to work together as an industry, “profits made in the past should be enough to survive at these times.”
Moving onto sustainability issues, where Tony’s Chocolonely is a leader, van Zanten said it applauds any initiative from other companies and organizations to improve the livelihood of farmers in West Africa and other regions. “But at the same time, it is our role keep an eye on the situation and whether famers’ lives are being improved. We see a lot of programmes that are good – but they definitely aren’t enough.”
He called for more positive change on the ground, particularly in West Africa. “That’s why we are putting pressure on governments and organizations to make them take responsibility to make sure there are no violations of human rights in their value chains.”
In the hour-long livestream van Zanten also discussed the ethos behind Tony’s Chocolonely, its working culture and moving into new markets and potentially new products.