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by Adele Bilotta June 24, 2021

Sharing not only a last name, but a passion for promoting fairer farming practices within the coffee and cocoa industries, our CEO Tom Greensmith spoke with Ben Greensmith of Tony's Chocolonely. From discussions about eradicating slave and child labour in the cocoa market, Fairtrade certifications, and being brutally honest about the issues with 'slave free', read more below.

First off, tell us a little about your previous experience?

"I’ve been in food and drink for the past 21 years (since uni). I started out in continuous market research and then joined the consumer goods giant Unilever back in 2002. I met my future wife there and also got some great training under my belt.

In 2007 I left to join Innocent Drinks which, at the time, was pioneering in terms of what it was doing and one of the first brands to really champion ‘doing good’ by people and planet. After the business sold to Coke in 2013 I stuck around for a bit as UK commercial director (in charge of the UK customers and P&L) but quickly realised that it didn’t really sit well with my personal values and so joined a smaller business in Propercorn which I took into national distribution and helped grow to a decent size.

When the chance came to head up Tony’s expansion into the UK I jumped at it."

Tell us why you joined Tonys? What was your lightbulb moment?

"I fell in love with Tony’s Chocolonely whilst on business (at another company) and doing some store visits in Holland. I bought a handful of the brightly coloured bars home to the UK and went through about 5-6 flavours with my wife and son.

I didn’t speak a word of Dutch so initially the mission was lost on me but then I started reading about the company. I actually said to my wife that the combination of the mission, product and brand would really resonate in the UK market and if ever Tony’s came to the UK then it would be my dream job.

A few years later the chance to join Tony’s came up and I jumped at it. To build this business in the UK and Ireland with the sole aim of changing the cocoa industry for the better is incredibly motivating and gets me out of bed in the morning!"

What is your specific role?

"My official title is Lord Chocolonely iii; my unofficial title is UK and Ireland country manager. Along with my brilliant team, I’m responsible for running and growing Tony’s Chocolonely in this market. A big part of my team’s job is to ensure that everyone is both aware of the issues of slavery and child-labour in the cocoa industry and also that Tony’s is part of the solution."

Could you write in two sentences what Tonys Chocolonely stands for? 

"Tony’s Chocolonely exists to eradicate slavery and child labour in the cocoa industry. Over 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from 2 countries - Ghana and the Ivory Coast. There are about 2.5 million farms producing that cocoa but, due to the farmers receiving such a poor price from the handful of massive chocolate companies, these farmers are living in poverty. As result they have to take their children out of school and use them on the farms. Denying them an education and exposing them to dangerous and hazardous work. As a result there are 1.56 million children working on West African cocoa farms with 90% of them doing illegal work.

Tony’s exists to change this by showing that there is a different way to make delicious tasting and looking chocolate. You can read more about our 5 sourcing principles here.

You’ll notice our bar is unequally divided too. We make it this way as it tells the story of the unequal nature of the cocoa industry."


How do you ensure you are producing 'slave free' chocolate?

"We have never found an instance of modern slavery in our supply chain, however, we do not guarantee our chocolate is 100% slave free. While we are doing everything we can to prevent slavery and child labour, we are also realistic.

Firstly, we cannot be there to monitor the cocoa plantations 24/7, and we don’t believe in that kind of monitoring. And our ambition extends beyond our own bar: we want to change the whole industry which involves being where the problems are so that we can solve them.

Only then can we say we have achieved our mission to make all chocolate 100% slave free."

So you are saying, there is illegal labour in your supply chain?

"The short answer is yes, but we have never said differently, and we are glad we know about it because then we can eradicate it.We actively look for instances so we can solve them.

We have a Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in place across all 7 cocoa cooperatives that we source from in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Last year we found 387 cases of illegal child labour and remediated 221.

Most big chocolate companies do not know how many cases of illegal labour there are in their cocoa supply chain and therefore they cannot work to remediate them, this is only made possible because we have a 100% traceable supply chain (as validated by PWC in our annual reports)."

Infographic courtesy of Tony's Chocolonely Annual Fair Report 2019-20 
Like us, you are Fairtrade certified, has this been part of Tonys from the beginning? And what do you think about the certification? Could it do more?

"We’ve been Fairtrade certified since the beginning.

For us, Fairtrade is a great start but we go further and urge others to do the same. Fairtrade ensures a premium is paid which we love but we then pay a further premium on top to enable the farmers to earn a living income. Our cocoa is also 100% traceable (unlike Fairtrade beans) so we know the conditions under which it has been grown. Only then can we take full responsibility for our part in the value chain."

How do you think the chocolate/coffee industries can overcome slave labour?

"Greater awareness of the issues is the first thing.

We feel if consumers are made aware of the facts and problems within the industry then they can make an informed choice in terms of what they are buying. We also think that they can help apply pressure on to the big chocolate companies to clean up their acts.

In reality it will take a concerted and complete effort from all major players – consumers, governments pushing through more legislation forcing companies to take responsibility (we have a petition live to make it law to actually look for issues in the value chains rather than ignore them) but also the big chocolate companies really need to step up and address the issues.A start would be paying a fairer price for their cocoa."

Where do you see Tony's in 10 years?

"We only exist to ensure there’s an end to slavery and child labour. If we still exist then there’s still a problem that needs addressing.

Unfortunately the big chocolate giants committed to eradicating slavery and child labour from cocoa farms in West Africa over 20 years ago now. 2 decades later and there’s been no change to the numbers!"

Adele Bilotta
Adele Bilotta

Birthstone is a coffee bean. Head of Customer Experience and resident American.

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