As late as 2020, the supply chain of the global chocolate industry was characterized by modern slavery and child labour, poverty, dire living conditions and deforestation. While players in the cocoa industry had launched certification and in-house sustainability programmes, experts claimed that these have had limited impact. This failing prompted alternative efforts to change the sector from within. One of them, Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch brand, set out to challenge the industry and demonstrate that cocoa could be sourced differently. Created in 2005 after an investigative journalist exposed the “dark side” of the industry, Tony’s became one of the market leaders in the Netherlands. It operated a fully segregated supply chain “from bean to bar” for all cocoa components in its chocolate, and paid farmers in Africa a higher price for their cocoa beans to help them earn a living income. It described itself as “an impact company that sells chocolate; not a chocolate company trying to make an impact”. Its vision – “a cocoa industry with 100% slave-free chocolate” – went beyond its own operations and applied to the global industry, urging the big chocolate players to take responsibility along the entire supply chain. The size of Tony’s Chocolonely compared to the global chocolate industry brings an analogy to mind: Could this David defy Goliath? Could a start-up with a social mission change an entire industry from within? To achieve 100% slave-free chocolate meant tackling a host of strategic, tactical and operational issues, many linked with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Teaching objectives

After reading and analysing the case, the audience should be able to: • Understand the cocoa supply and value chain, the part it plays in farmer poverty, child labour and deforestation, and how these problems can be addressed by responsible business. • Demonstrate how Tony’s mission contributes to sector-wide sustainability and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. • Understand the complexity of social impact companies and the challenges faced by Tony’s in the industry ecosystem. • Critically assess Tony’s way of doing business and understand how it differs from the conventional approach. • Propose and assess both high-level strategic and operational avenues for the different types of challenges Tony’s faces

  • UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Cote D’Ivoire
  • Ghana
  • Industry Change
  • Disruptive Entrepreneurship
  • Social Impact Company
  • Child Labour
  • Poverty
  • Deforestation
  • Responsible Business
  • Sustainable Operations Management
  • Marketing and Consumer Awareness
  • Q22021
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