As an international company dependent on an international supply chain, Amsterdam-based Tony’s Chocolonely is working hard to live its values during the current coronavirus pandemic. 

The company, which works to make people aware of the inequality in the chocolate industry, set the example that chocolate can be made differently and inspire the chocolate industry to make 100 percent slave free cocoa the norm in chocolate. With headquarters in Amsterdam, as well as offices in Portland, Oregon, New York, London and Hamburg, it's a lot to coordinate.

Thecla Schaeffer, head of marketing at Tony's Chocolonely, recently offered some insight into how the chocolate company is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What is Tony’s approach to mitigation of risk of spreading the virus?

  • We closed down all our offices (Amsterdam, Portland/New York, London, Hamburg) and our two stores in Amsterdam and all employees work from home. 
  • We promised all employees that we won't terminate our freelancers/contractors or temp contracts. 
  • All employees can take time to take care of their families.
  • We won’t travel to Ivory Coast and Ghana, to avoid the risk of spreading the virus.
  • There is a need for chocolate in stores, so we keep supplying/distributing.
  • Our online shops are still in operation. 
  • Our delivery services have strict regulations on how to handle our products safely. 
  • Our factory partners are still in service, with the exception of one, where vulnerable people are employed. 

Our partner cooperatives in Ghana and Ivory Coast are fine for now (we are in close contact with the seven partner cooperatives), but we already see the price of cocoa is dropping in international trade. This is devastating for cocoa farmers. Most of them live already in extreme poverty. 

Does coronavirus influence your sales?  

We still produce chocolate. Chocolate is not a life saver, but it does bring some comfort. The demand in supermarkets did not go down. We do share our product (chocolate) with those who need it and deserve it, behind the scenes.

How does it affect your supply chain?  

We are in close telephone contact with everyone in the supply chain, from farmer to cooperative to exporters to follow how they are doing and if they are in need for our help.

How is Tony’s taking care of their employees? 

At Tony’s, we’re one team with one mission. And despite everything that’s happening, we’re going to stay that way. That means that all of our Tony’s stay on, including contract workers and freelancers; everyone is currently working from home. 

Everyone is connected through Microsoft Teams and extra monitors were provided to those who needed one. We have daily morning department meetings to check in with the teams and make sure everyone is doing well, as well as cyber social events for employees like Friday drinks with quizzes. All employees have received a care-pack with some essentials like toilet paper, hand soap and of course some chocolate. During this time we will also maintain our unlimited paid holiday policy. 

What organizations is Tony’s teaming up with? 

We are teaming up with Fairtrade in regards to our farmers, health organizations and teachers to provide free chocolate as a token of gratitude and appreciation. Next to this we are looking into making donations to organizations, like food banks, that are working hard to support local communities in these difficult times. We’re sharing our chocolate with those that need and deserve it the most. It’s our small way of saying thank you to those that are helping to make this situation a little less bitter. 

Does Tony volunteer to give away production capacity or office space to those in need? 

Tony’s Chocolonely does not have its own plant yet. We source the beans and we are 100 percent responsible for the supply chain, but for the actual production of the chocolate and the packaging, we collaborate with factories in Belgium. So unfortunately we can’t turn the plant into a place to combat the virus. 

Are your offices used for any good causes? 

No, officially our offices are closed down and sometimes used by max one employee at the same time.

How is Tony’s continuing to raise awareness of their mission during this time? 

It’s Tony’s mission to end modern slavery in the cocoa industry. We are working with our suppliers in West Africa to support them during these uncertain times. We will keep our consumers informed about this situation. For now we have put all regular marketing activities on hold, instead our team will be focusing on providing Tony’s Talks online for primary schools, secondary schools, adults and companies. [In the coming days] we will also have an opinion piece on about the impact of the pandemic in West Africa. 

The piece will be about the need to have direct relations with farmers and cooperatives to be able to support, the issue of schools being closed and the difficulties with child labor monitoring when farm visits are not possible. A lot of events and shows are canceled. One of Tony’s core values is entrepreneurship, so we’ll find other creative ways to get in touch, by virtual meetings and gatherings, sending chocolate samples by mail and informing people through online seminars.