Tony’s Chocolonely reveals ‘Sweet Solution’ chocolate, calling for greater action against child labour

Ethically-focused premium chocolate business Tony’s Chocolonely has launched its ‘Sweet Solution’ bars to raise awareness that 20 years after the industry promised to eradicate illegal child labour, it is still a factor within the sector, reports Neill Barston.

The company has taken a strong stance on its sourcing policies, having been founded on a mission statement of creating ‘slave free’ confectionery ranges that have endeavoured to raise the wider industry’s response to production conditions in key producing territories including Ghana and Ivory Coast. In the company’s view, the voluntary efforts to improve the situation in West Africa in particular, have not been sufficient.

As the Netherlands-based business explained, the four one-off ‘look-alike’ chocolate bars aim to expose what it terms as the bitter truth in the chocolate industry, and demonstrate how fairer chocolate, regardless of shape or flavour, is achievable.

The company has formed a sourcing agreement with Swiss-headquartered Barry Callebaut, (which itself has its Forever Chocolate programme seeking to lift farmers in the region out of poverty) and address key labour issues), and has acknowledged that its efforts to drive down the issue remain ongoing.

Its major product launch comes on the heels of the cocoa company’s annual FAIR event that took place this past December where Idris Elba participated and lent his voice to raise the bar for social change. It also follows the release of the US-based NORC at the University of Chicago report in 2020 that highlighted there remained a total of 1.56 million children exposed to hazardous child labour in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

According to the business, its Sweet Solution bars, which may at first look familiar, are in fact very different. These nougat pyramids, wafer strips, nutty crunch circles and caramel cookie strips are unmistakably part of its series — from their boldly branded wrappers to their chunky tablet format. The bars are made following Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles: using 100 percent traceable cocoa beans, paying a higher price, supporting strong farmers, engaging in long-term partnerships, and focusing on quality and productivity.

“Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles are designed to create a fairer cocoa supply chain and address the root cause of modern slavery and illegal child labor: poverty,” explains Paul Schoenmakers, Head of Impact at Tony’s Chocolonely. “But it’s not enough if these principles are only followed by us. So, we’ve also developed Tony’s Open Chain, an open-source initiative available to all chocolate makers so they can do the same and that together we can make all chocolate slave-free”

In 2001, the world’s biggest chocolate companies supported the Harkin–Engel Protocol, committing to eradicate illegal child labor and modern slavery from the chocolate supply chain. Since then, not much has changed. In fact, in some areas, prevalence rates have even increased.

“Time’s up,” adds Schoenmakers, “15 years after we launched our first chocolate bar, not enough has changed. With these bars, we aren’t pointing a finger. We’re raising our voice, again, to raise awareness, and start a movement for necessary positive change. We’re not assigning blame; we’re calling on everyone to take responsibility. If we want 100 percent slave free to be the norm in chocolate, we need legislation, and we need everyone to play their part. From Choco Fans to Choco Makers to retailers, to governments, and to cocoa farmers, too. We are all part of the problem and we can all be part of the sweet solution.”

Tony’s Sweet Solution bars were created solely to raise issue-awareness and inspire everyone in the chocolate chain to act. All profits from the bars will be donated to 100WEEKS, an independent platform that uses direct cash transfers and financial training to assist women in escaping the cycle of extreme poverty.

Together with other chocolate makers and partners, Tony’s has been campaigning for legislation to make companies responsible for human rights violations in their supply chains since 2017. Most recently, the chocolate company urged Supreme Court Justices to rule in favour of corporate responsibility in a case about child-slavery in the cocoa industry in December.

With momentum building in the EU, a new administration in the US, and with the UN designating 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the message is clear. The time to act is now. But only together can we make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate. To be part of the sweet solution and call upon governments to act this year, join Tony’s efforts here:

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