Change the World: Interview with Tony’s Chocolonely

The following is an exclusive interview with Dena White, the Head of U.S. Marketing for Dutch company Tony’s Chocolonely. This interview took place at ASU’s Change the World event on March 27.

“The goal of having this truck here is to continue to spread awareness and create issue awareness that there is in fact slavery in the coco industry. Slavery can mean a lot of different things. We have this perception based on the narrative in our history books and what we learned slavery is. But we’re talking about modern slavery and illegal child labor.

“Basically, the coco farmers in West Africa are working incredibly hard but will never turn a profit because the market price of coco…it’s way too low. And that price is dictated by big companies that dictate all the coco.

“So, what we’re trying to do is make this industry a more equal place so that farmers get what they deserve — the right price for their product. There’s no reason in this day and age for there to be slavery in this industry — this is chocolate. It’s enjoyable, and it should be enjoyable for everybody. For a kid now to be eating chocolate that was produced by another kid who doesn’t even have access to that or is being held out of school or lifting heavy equipment or using heavy machinery or toxic chemicals…

“Our mission is a hundred percent slave-free chocolate, not just our chocolate but all chocolate worldwide. And we are taking this beast around to share our business model with everybody. We want companies to copy us, not just the flavors because anybody can do that, but our sourcing principles so that you can have traceability from bean to bar. You can still make a profit — we’re not a nonprofit. And people can have quality of life. That’s what we’re trying to do.

“We currently partner with five cooperatives in Ghana and on the Ivory Coast, and we’re continually expanding and trying to find more partners because more and more people need to be involved in this. If that wasn’t the case, we would just source our coco elsewhere, not just Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

“I’m particularly happy and proud to be here because a group of students who do want to change the world and make it a fair place made this happen. Big props to them and all of ASU because we always say we can’t do this alone. We need everybody with us. It’s really impressive that this group of students has made this happen and continued to share our story. They’ve held documentary nights for us, they do a ton of efforts on campus, and I think the more that young thought leaders get involved and spread awareness, the more we’ll actually be able to do this.

“We’re really a threat to a lot of chocolate players which is really exciting because they’re starting to adopt our sourcing principles. One of the largest grocery chains in the Netherlands, which is where we’re headquartered, announced that they would be adopting our business model for their private label products. The more we can roll this out, the more we can collectively make change. And in ten years, if we’re out of business, but there is zero slavery in the whole industry, we’re good. Mission accomplished.

“We’re not a chocolate company. We’re an impact company that makes chocolate. The goal here is impact. The goal is not profit — profit is the means to that goal.”