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Dutch Company Fights Child Labor in Chocolate Industry with Blockchain

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An Amsterdam-based chocolate company has been mounting its own campaign to tackle modern slavery in the chocolate industry by using blockchain.

The company, Tony’s Chocolonely, might be a lone campaigner, but it has been setting the right tone in addressing a problem which has become common in parts of Africa such as Ghana and the Côte d’Ivoire, where cocoa beans are produced.

It’s been noted and acknowledged by the companies themselves, that even major players in the industry such as Nestlé, Hershey, and Mars contribute to the 2.3 million working in cocoa production in Ghana. Although many companies are yet to source products made under these conditions, Tony’s Chocolonely have a 13-year history in fighting against the industry’s status quo over labor conditions.

Due to competitive pricing from the end product down to the farmer who produces the beans many on the ground have taken to sourcing their labour through less than ethical means, including slavery and underaged labour, although this is not limited to this particular industry.

Four years ago, it decided that traceability could solve this problem and created Beantracker, a bean to bar blockchain tracking system which logs every facet of the end product’s manufacture and locates the processes in real time. The company’s major success has been persuading the world’s largest cocoa processor, Barry Callebaut, to develop a supply chain model based on Beantracker, which hopefully could have a knock-on effect with smaller manufacturers of chocolate products. To date, Barry Callebaut has been involved in inputting data on to the Beantracker platform.

Frans Pannekoek, working with Tony’s Chocolonely, said that the use of tech such as Accenture and blockchain was essential to make these vital changes to the industry, but having a closer relationship with bean producers could be the key to change, commenting:

“We believe that having a direct relationship with farmers through traceability is key in taking responsibility. When you [are] buying of a big pile of beans you might turn a blind eye to what is happening ‘on the other side’ of the pile.”


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