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Commenting on the recent news around Tony’s Chocolonely and how it has been dropped from Slave Free Chocolate’s list of ethical chocolate companies, despite its efforts to fight forced labour in global cocoa supply chains, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Director of Sustainability Didier Bergeret has contributed an opinion piece to Reuters Events Sustainable Business. In the editorial, entitled “Tony’s Chocolonely deserves support for tackling the complexity of combatting forced labour,” Bergeret explains the importance of encouraging companies to be more transparent about the realities and challenges of the forced labour challenge. Bergeret says this is the only way the endemic problem of forced labour, which impacts consumer goods supply chains worldwide, can even begin to be addressed. 

In the specific case of Tony’s Chocolonely, he argues that the company should not be condemned for having connections to modern slavery, but rather supported for actually doing something about it, writing, “Rather than condemning Tony’s Chocolonely, we should welcome its decision to try and make change from the inside out. The company deliberately chose to source cocoa directly from the Ivory Coast and Ghana to improve supply chains there and shine a light on where action against forced labour is needed. It could have gone for other less problematic sourcing routes, but made the decision not to ignore the risks in West Africa. As Tony’s Chocolonely says, ‘we go to where the problems are – so we can solve them.'”

In general, Bergeret says while supply chain due diligence is a challenging task and companies can be scared of any association to modern slavery, transparency is still essential to understanding the scale of any problem and the best ways to address it.

He continues, “Any instance of abuse is of course deplorable and completely unacceptable. But it is possible to know this while also acknowledging just how tough challenges around global supply chains are.”

The article also includes reference to the CGF’s Human Rights Coalition Working to End Forced Labour (HRC)  and the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative both of which are CEO-led initiatives of consumer goods companies working to ensure the social sustainability of consumer goods supply chains.

The editorial concludes with a strong call to action for increased transparency and openness on the forced labour issue: “No business can bury its head in the sand or pretend it is above the risks,” Bergeret writes. “Only by acknowledging the scale of the issue, and shining a light on where change needs to happen, can we proactively tackle things together.”

The full editorial is available here.

For details about how the members of the HRC are working to practice good due diligence and increase transparency in their Own Operations around the challenge of forced labour, read the new HRC Maturity Journey Framework for Forced Labour-focused Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) Systems in Own Operations.