The good news is that Tony’s Chocolonely, the Dutch ethical chocolate brand on a mission 'to make chocolate 100% slave free', has broken through the €100m revenue mark for the first time in its history … the bad news is that it made a loss of -4.3% last year.
That would be a negative for any other company, but Tony’s is not like any other company. It was founded in 2005 by three journalists from the Dutch TV show 'Keuringsdienst van Waarde' after they discovered that the world's largest chocolate manufacturers were buying cocoa from plantations that used illegal child labour and modern slavery.
We keep on evolving, we keep on learning and yeah, basically, we try out a couple of things that might be a bit out there, that might be a bit different and that's a risk we take in the end -- Belinda Borck, Impact Editor, Tony's Chocolonely
Since then, it has strived to create an impact, rather than chase a profit. Ten years ago, the company barely netted €1m in turnover but demand for its premium, 100% sustainable Belgian chocolate, has soared in recent years with Tony’s global business growing by 24%.
Its mission remains intact, says Belinda Borck, Impact Editor at Tony's Chocolonely, and in any case, without the one-off or exceptional costs in this financial year, the company would have registered at least 1.0% profit, which would have been a good result because it pays far more to farmers for its cocoa than any other chocolate company.
“We are an impact company and we make chocolate, of course. And that means we put people over profit. That's about to bottom line of it,” says Borck. “We keep on evolving, we keep on learning and yeah, basically, we try out a couple of things that might be a bit out there, that might be a bit different and that's a risk we take in the end.”
In our podcast chat, Borck says Tony’s mission-driven focus is something that everyone who works for Tony’s is very proud of. “The way to really change something in the industry will only happen if every now and then we kind of, try out a new and maybe untrodden path.”
As one of its five sourcing principles, Tony’s pays a higher price for its cocoa, works with cooperatives, and actively remediates any cases of child labour discovered in its supply chain.
With the price of cocoa dropping because of a production surplus in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the two largest supplier countries, farmers that were already struggling to make a living, are suffering real hardship.
So, paying a higher price for cocoa is crucial … but you really need to know your supply chain to be able to take responsibility, and knowing the supply chain means we need 100% traceability.
Long-term, Tony’s can’t make the systemic change it would like on its own and Borck calls for an industry-wide mind shift and for all chocolate companies to take responsibility.
She believes the confectionery industry can lead by example and give consumers a better understanding of the environmental and human aspects of what they buy.
“Once you know, you can’t unknow,” she says. Consumers have the power and can influence companies with their buying decisions – and the companies have the power to change the status quo.
Borck says Tony’s goal is to make sure everyone is informed about these issues in the cocoa sector so they can make informed decisions – and enjoy a bar of chocolate guilt-free.
- Listen to the full interview with Borck in our latest podcast.