Tony’s Chocolonely responds to being cut from ethical supplier list

Sustainability-founded confectionery brand Tony’s Chocolonely has moved to defend its cocoa sourcing policy, after being removed from a list of ethical businesses by industry organisation Slave Free Chocolate, writes Neill Barston.

The Dutch businesses said it regretted that it no longer featured in the US-based group’s listings over its supply links to Barry Callebaut – but believed that its connection to the global chocolate processor was entirely appropriate.

As Confectionery Production has previously reported, Tony’s Chocolonely, which is now listed in a number of UK stores including Sainsbury’s, was founded on a mission statement of seeking to deliver ‘slave free chocolate’ and has campaigned notably on the issue since its formation.

The company, which last month launched its “Sweet Solution’ range of confectionery highlighting the ongoing fight against child labour, first teamed up with Barry Callebaut in 2005. Their joint initiative that aimed to raise industry standards of sustainability and labour issues, which included measures moving towards delivering a living income within key producing nations including Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Notably, Barry Callebaut has also developed a number of initiatives to assist cocoa growing territories, including its Forever Chocolate programme that aims to eradicate child labour from supply chains by 2025.

But despite its efforts, it has been named in a new legal case alongside six other major companies including Nestle, Cargill, Hershey, Mars, Mondelez and Olam, in the US in which a group of youths from Mali claim to have been forced to work on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast. Speaking on the issue Barry Callebaut said that it ‘strongly condemns’ forced labour practices, and has zero tolerance of child trafficking which is related to the federal lawsuit being brought in America.

Addressing child labour

Responding to its removal from the ethical suppliers list, Tony’s Chocolonely said that transparency was of prime importance to the company.

Furthermore, it explained its decision was based on developing a model that would help pave the way for how the industry could operate with enhanced standards.

Significantly, it said that it had chosen to chose to partner with Barry Callebaut to show that it is possible to be fully traceable while working with a large processor.

“In 2005, we deliberately chose to partner with Barry Callebaut to show that it is possible to be fully traceable while working with a large processor.

“This way we show that every chocolate company can work according to our 5 sourcing principles. From the start, Barry Callebaut has believed in our mission and collaborated with us to set up fully segregated processing for our 100% traceable beans so they are never mixed with other beans. Working with Barry Callebaut allows us to further scale up our production and enables us to grow Tony’s Open Chain by processing the 100% traceable cocoa beans from our mission allies, too.”

Addressing the critical issue as to whether illegal child labour was in fact in its supply chain the company acknowledged this was the case.

Its statement added: “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 seven cocoa cooperatives that we source from in Ghana and Ivory Coast.”

“Last year we found 387 cases of illegal child labour and remediated 221. We have never found a case of modern slavery in our supply chain. 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).

“Our 100% traceable supply chain is possible because Barry Callebaut segregates our cocoa and processes it separately.”

The company added that in response to claims that it made savings from working with Barry Callebaut, it said this was not the case, as it in fact paid more in terms of its cocoa beans being fully segregated.

While it acknowledged this brought about some efficiency advantages, it believed that its policy was crucial to demonstrate to large chocolate companies that an industry free from illegal child labour is entirely possible.




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