Ben & Jerry’s to crack down on human rights abuses in cocoa supply chain through tie-up with Tony’s Chocoloney

By some estimates, the rate of child labour in the Ivory Coast's cocoa sector is almost one in every two children

The brands announced the partnership on Thursday (18 August) and much media coverage has been dedicated to the special products that will be launched as a result of the tie-up – two new chocolate bars inspired by Ben & Jerry’s flavours and a new ice cream called ‘Chocolatey Love A-Fair’.

But the aim of the partnership is not just to sell products – it is to help eliminate modern slavery and child labour from cocoa supply chains.

Ben & Jerry’s already sources 100% of its cocoa through Fairtrade means and has also implemented a ‘Producer Development Initiative’ – a set of targeted programmes designed to improve smallholder producer livelihoods. Its core ingredients other than dairy are sugar, vanilla, coffee, bananas and cocoa, and all are sourced by Fairtrade means.

Building on this work, the brand will now adopt Tony’s Chocoloney’s ‘Open Chain’ sourcing principles, which are designed to increase traceability.

The Principles lay out guidance for sourcing beans from known partner co-operatives and farmers which provide data on human rights and log this on a digital platform. Farms are mapped using GPS and logged on the International Cocoa Initiative’s digital systems recording child labour.

Brands should then pay cocoa workers an additional price, ensuring a living income, and invest to continue and expand strong direct contact with farmers.

Additionally, brands are asked to take responsibility to ensure that farmers can increase productivity without increasing the number of workers on-site by turning to slave labour or child labour. Tools include farm development plans, product diversification and farmer coaching.

Tony’s Chocoloney states that all sourcing principles “need to be implemented, otherwise brands are cheating and the system does not change”. Other brands already implementing the principles inlcue Aldi, through its Choco Changer brand, plus Jokolade and Delicata.

“Not only will this partnership see large volumes of cocoa beans sourced via Tony’s Open Chain, but collaborating with one of the world’s most-loved social justice companies truly puts our initiative on the map internationally and proves that our way of working is a solution for all players in the cocoa industry,” said Tony’s Chocoloney’s Open Chain lead Joke Aerts.

Activist brands

Ben & Jerry’s has launched flavours and accompanying campaigns around a variety of social end environmental issues over the years. Ahead of COP21 in Paris in 2015, the brand sold a ‘Save our Swirled’ flavor and advocated for a strong agreement at the conference. It also ran a UK-specific campaign in 2018, supporting the end to an effective ban on new onshore wind farms. Discounts were offered on ‘windy Wednesdays’ and three iconic flavours renamed: Cherry Garcia became Cherry Gale-cia; Caramel Chew Chew became Caramel Blew Blew and Strawberry Cheesecake was Strawberry Breeze-cake.

As for Tony’s Chocoloney, the brand made headlines earlier this year with the publication of its latest annual report. The report revealed that 1,701 child laborers were involved in its supply chains as it works towards ‘making 100% slave-free chocolate a reality’. This sparked a debate around traceability, transparency, and how best to frame corporate communications. To this latter point, the brand received some flack from columnists who interpreted its mission as that it was already operating ‘slave-free’ supply chains.

“Child labour is a horrendous fact of a broken chocolate industry,” Tony’s stated in its annual Fair Report.  The report noted that, while the average rate of child labour in the chocolate industry is almost one in two (46.5%), its rate is 3.9%. This difference was attributed to the Open Chain sourcing principle approach.

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