A Sweet Revolution: Businesses Taking the Bitter Out of the Cocoa Industry
We love chocolate. You know what we don’t love? The elusive, predatory, and cyclical nature of environmental and social exploitation in the cocoa industry. On Let’s Get Changed, we had the opportunity to learn from three companies using business to unspoil the cocoa industry in different ways.
Impact-driven to the core, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Tony’s Chocolonely, and Greyston Bakery are on a mission to use better business to reinvent broken systems and put people and the planet at the forefront of an industry that should be sweet.
Injustices in the cocoa industry
As Karin Campbell, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Tony’s Chocolonely, shared with us on our sixth episode, cocoa production and trade has a history of being volatile. Unlivable low wages for farmers, extreme poverty, and devastating agricultural practices top the list of social, economical, and environmental issues in the chocolate industry. Making it even harder to digest is knowing that 60% of the world’s chocolate comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where colonization and the enslavement and murder of indigenous and West African people throughout history has turned into modern-day slavery and child labor.
Coincidentally, Tony’s Chocolonely and Dr. Bronner’s Magic “All-One” Chocolate are paving a new path in ethical practices for people and planet. From thoughtful and commitment-driven sourcing of ingredients to intentional partnerships that spread the message of change, these two entirely different companies are leading examples of doing business better and improving a tainted past.
Better at the source
When thinking of sourcing, it’s often thought of at the foundation of ingredients and supply – from where and whom businesses are buying their first-phase products. Better world businesses usually think of the full-circle reality of sourcing – not just ingredients, but packaging, shipping, distribution, marketing, and consuming.
So what does better chocolate sourcing (and business) for all involved look like?
For Dr. Bronner’s, it looks like proactive solutioning. The company established their own fair trade and certified organic palm oil project, Serendipalm, which has since provided around 800 farmers with resources to convert existing palm and cocoa fields into regenerative agricultural production. They also participate in dynamic agroforestry, planting complementary crops next to each other, to promote biodiversity, improve yields, and mitigate the need for polluting pesticides and fertilizers.
Tony’s Chocolonely participates in long-term trade relationships with farmers and open-chain sourcing principles allowing for transparency with and from supply partners to promote higher living wages, reducing exploitative labor systems for cocoa farmers and children. And such a strategy has made its mark:
Just as important as providing better lives and livelihoods for those at the start of the chocolate production cycle, so it is for those at the end of the cycle responsible for getting the product into the hands of consumers. Perhaps doing this best is Greyston Bakery, a New York-based B Corp company doing so much more than creating delicious treats.
Most known for their selection of vegan brownies and blondies, Greyston was founded from the intention of employing individuals who specifically face barriers and hardships in the workforce. The company’s Open Hiring® policy has been responsible for giving a fresh employment start to countless individuals where no background checks, interviews, or even resumes are necessary to gain employment.
“We make brownies to hire people — the focus is on the people. We want to unlock human potential through inclusive employment, leading with our open hiring model one person at a time.”– Joseph Kenner, Greyston Bakery, Episode 7
Greyston has created a solution for tens of thousands facing employment challenges by blending opportunity with purpose through the Greyston Employment Opportunity Center, where people are offered a place to learn skills, earn certifications, gain job placement, and realize self-sufficiency in satisfying careers.
Better business for a better world
The common theme (besides delicious treats) among Tony’s Chocolonely, Greyston Bakery, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Chocolate is that their products exist as a vehicle for change: mission is at the center of each of these companies. They are all B Corp members. They all focus on how their products – as well as their profits – impact people and planet. And they all make strategic and crucial alliances with values-aligned partners to ensure their vision, mission, and purpose is upheld with integrity from the start. How many candy companies can make this claim? Not enough, and this is a refreshing (and delicious) change.
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