Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch chocolate company with goals of transforming the chocolate production industry against illegal child labor, has begun its collaboration with UC Berkeley through its Collegiate Changemaker program.
To raise awareness of the widespread use of child slave labor in chocolate production, Tony’s Chocolonely creates 100% slave-free chocolate. The chocolate is produced in Ghana and the Ivory Coast but is disassociated from the labor cooperatives that function as camps and provide living wages to workers, according to campus student and Tony’s Chocolonely Collegiate Changemaker Hector Murillo.
Tony’s Chocolonely’s spring 2021 Collegiate Changemaker program began planning virtual and in-person events for its pilot program this semester to establish its presence on campuses across the country. According to Stephanie Iller Drachman, senior U.S. experiential marketing producer at Tony’s Chocolonely, UC Berkeley was chosen to participate because of its legacy of activism and social justice.
“College students are a critical and essential voice in the call for change and action, both locally and globally,” Iller Drachman said in an email. “We were inspired by the opportunity to create lasting impact together – sharing our story and chocolate – while empowering the changemakers of the future.”
Iller Drachman added that Tony’s Chocolonely’s chocolate will be available across campus, as well as at Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods, CVS and on Amazon.
Premiums on the company’s chocolate may be higher than other brands because the cost in making the chocolate provides livable wages for individuals working in the cooperatives associated with Tony’s Chocolonely, campus student and Tony’s Chocolonely Collegiate Changemaker Samantha Patten noted.
“The whole experience has been really educational,” Patten said. “Our mission is not only to make people aware of the chocolate but to get people thinking differently about how they consume.”
The Collegiate Changemaker program will partner with student organizations and faculty departments on campus to form initiatives and collaborate with local government, according to campus student and Tony’s Chocolonely Collegiate Changemaker Sophia Zhang. The company’s soft opening on campus has included a mix of virtual and socially distanced in-person events such as distributing chocolate to students on campus and at People’s Park, as well as an Easter egg hunt this past weekend.
Murillo described an appreciation for the freedom in pitching ideas to Tony’s headquarters and U.S. marketing team, as the Collegiate Changemaker program members are able to decide to host events and receive feedback on ideas.
“It’s been very fun for me personally, it’s been fun having a lot of creative control with creating events and programming,” Murillo said. “This company manages a way to produce something that’s very inclusive.”
Zhang added that its focus is on sharing its story with people, instead of emphasizing sales. The Collegiate Changemaker program will send a letter to members of Congress in the next month to encourage legislation that holds cocoa companies accountable and increase the sustainability of the industry, according to campus student and Tony’s Collegiate Changemaker Garrett Layton.
“There’s not a lot of ways that we can directly go and stop these large issues that America is complicit in when it comes to corporations,” Patten said. “Informing people on the level of the consumership is a really tangible way to take money away from those situations.”