Ynzo van Zanten, Choco Evangelist at Tony’s Chocolonely: “What you put in your shopping basket is a daily vote for the world you want to live in”

Tony’s Chocolonely is not your average chocolate company, but a chocolate company with a huge mission; to end modern slavery and exploitation in the cocoa industry. Ynzo van Zanten explains in this interview Tony’s mission: “Tony’s aims to make 100% slave free chocolate the norm in the world. Not just our chocolate, but all chocolate in the world. We do this by creating awareness, by leading by example and by inspiring other to act as well”.

At Sustainable Brands Madrid 2018 Ynzo will talk about how brands that really care about people end up benefiting from this strategy: “Small steps can lead to big changes”.

Tony’s Chocolonely is a Dutch company that has made sustainability its purpose, promoting a fairer and more sustainable chocolate industry. What is the dark side of this industry and what does your company do to try to improve it?

In Ghana and Ivory Coast, were more than 60% of all the world’s cocoa comes from, there are about 2.100.000 children working in illegal circumstances, of which more than 30.000 are subject to something we call ‘modern slavery’. Tony’s aims to make 100% slave free chocolate the norm in the world. Not just our chocolate, but all chocolate in the world. We do this by creating awareness, by leading by example and by inspiring other to act as well. We do this by using fully traceable cocoa beans, by paying a price for those beans that will help farmers to reach a living income, by building long term relations with the cooperations that we work with, by helping them professionalize as cooperations and by helping them increase their productivity and quality.

 

Does slavery still exist in the 21st century? How can it be eradicated?

Unfortunately it does. Whatever definition you give to it, we need to acknowledge that there is such a thing. And it can be eradicated when producers, of any kind of product, simply take responsibility for their full value chain

 

Your company focuses its marketing strategy on making its history and mission known at events around the world, and also through the tablet’s own packaging. Why have they decided not to advertise? What does storytelling contribute to the success of your business?

We believe our story, our mission, our drivers, need more than 20 seconds on television or an ad in a magazine to convey. And since we believe in building long term relations, we’d rather tell our story one on one, or one on many when we are on stage somewhere. And when people doubt whether that can be effective, I smile and gently point to the fact that we became market leaders in the Netherlands without a single cent spent on paid media.

 

You are an expert in advising and motivating organizations in the field of communication and sustainability. In many cases it seems that this area is dispensable, complementary and not at the core of the business. How do you convince them that sustainability can even improve the profitability of a company?

Hm. Well, there are many hard figures one can point at to prove the point that sustainable businesses, purpose-led businesses, are simply more profitable. I rather point towards the responsibility that we bear as entrepreneurs, or as parents, to leave this world in a better state than how we got it from our parents. Instead of leaving it more messed up than ever. I don’t believe sustainability, in any form, can be ‘dispensable’. To me it is the only way forward. And I have strong faith in this new generation where this is much more commonly accepted.

 

At Sustainable Brands Madrid 2018 you will talk about how brands that really care about people end up benefiting from this strategy. What three tips would you give to a company that wants to become a sustainable business and what role would Marketing and Communication play in this process?

I would start by emphasizing that small steps can lead to big changes, what you do matter. What you put in your shopping basket is a daily vote for the world you want to live in. Use that vote wisely.

Secondly, realize the fact that you yourself are responsible for your actions. Do not wait for others, do your own thing today.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to pivot from earlier decisions. Sometimes the world around us changes so fast that you need to take another look at reality.

 

Do you believe that companies are adequately fulfilling their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, the plan of Humanity defined by the United Nations to reach 2030 by living in a more sustainable and fair world? What role do SDG have to play in improving the world?

The SDG’s are a great compass for people and organizations to use when defining their path towards their future. Are companies doing something? Yes. Are they doing enough? No. I believe there needs to be a greater sense of urgency. Sustainability is often still on a separate agenda. We need to step up and take responsibility.

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