Tony's Chocolonely said modern slavery and child labour were prevalent in West Africa © Petra Figueroa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Tony's Chocolonely said modern slavery and child labour were prevalent in West Africa © Petra Figueroa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tony's Chocolonely admits to 1,700 cases of supply chain child labour

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
7 February 2022

Tony’s Chocolonely – the chocolate company that prides itself on ethical trading – has found 1,700 incidents of child labour in its supply chain.

The company’s annual report for 2020-21 said 1,701 cases of child labour were found on the farms in West Africa where it sources cocoa, up on 387 in 2019-20.

Tony’s said most of the increase was due to the onboarding of two farming cooperatives which had child labour rates of 50% and accounted for 1,426 cases. The company said research showed half of children in cocoa-growing households in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire were in child labour.

A Tony’s spokesperson told Supply Management modern slavery and child labour were “very prevalant in West Africa, which is what Tony’s Chocolonely exists to change and why we source from there”.

“We look for both problems in our supply chain and while we have never found any cases of modern slavery, we do find instances of child labour and report this in our Annual Fair Report,” said the spokesperson. 

“Finding cases of child labour in your supply chain means you are taking responsibility and change is happening, which is reflected in the reduction in the prevalence of child labour at our long-term partner cooperatives.”

Tony’s was struck off the Slave Free Chocolate list a year ago after it partnered with processor Barry Callebaut, one of the largest chocolate makers in the world. Barry Callebaut’s progress report for 2020-21 said it had identified 21,258 cases of child labour in its supply chain.

In January Tony’s said its cocoa beans were separated and processed in a separate line from other brands at Barry Callebaut.

“Since Barry Callebaut is one of the biggest cocoa processors in the world, making use of their facilities was a no brainer for us,” said Tony’s.

“Setting up shop right beside Big Choco means that we’re able to prove first-hand that it is possible to be processing substantial volumes of cocoa beans and still be 100% traceable and slave free.”

In comments to the Times, Ayn Riggs, founder of Slave Free Chocolate, accused Tony’s of “pitching virtue to consumers” when the company is “completely dependent on its relationship with Barry Callebaut to make and sell chocolate which is in fact tainted by child labourers”.

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