Mapping the value chain - bean to bar
Challenge: tackling modern-day slavery with Tony's Chocolonely
We often tend to assume that slavery is a thing of the past, a cautionary horror straight out of the history books. But sadly, the practice is alive and well on many of the African plantations that supply the world’s cocoa beans.
Tony’s Chocolonely was founded with a specific mission in mind: to banish slavery from the chocolate industry entirely, paving the way for a world where cocoa products are 100 percent slave-free. Embracing technology as its ally, it strives to create an end-to-end value chain in which all actors are able to take responsibility for their segment of the chain, jointly contributing to the elimination of predatory labor practices from source to sale.
Recognizing technology is an important facilitator for chain traceability and transparency, Tony’s invested in a virtual traceability platform to monitor its resource flow from bean to bar. Still, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Which is why we decided to put their concept to the test in a very practical way, using Blockchain technology.
"transparency is essential to a company like Tony’s Chocolonely, as it allows them to trace issues with any given shipment back to the source"
Our Solution: supply chain traceability platform based on Blockchain
Working closely with Tony’s Chocolonely, we wanted to develop and pilot a working blockchain prototype which could be tested in the field by stakeholders. To tackle this challenge, we got together with Tony’s Chocolonely at our Innovation Center and started out by mapping the value chain from bean to bar. Once we had a complete overview, we began pinpointing the existing issues that blockchain would be able to solve. That gave us a clear picture of the opportunities, along with a set of questions that needed to be answered before we could move on to the next phase:
- Which parties in the supply chain would be most supportive?
- Who could we bring on board quickly?
- How small could we start without sacrificing results?
- Where would our efforts achieve the greatest impact?
- And which region stood to gain the most from this project?
This approach helped us remain focused, selecting for both speed and effectiveness. Thinking big and filtering down, we identified Côte d’Ivoire as the ideal region to pilot our blockchain solution. Working with the local cooperative of cocoa farmers and the international trader they supplied, we were quickly able to set up a small ecosystem and start testing in the field. We rolled out the minimum viable prototype and trained the users in Amsterdam, which allowed us to start collecting real-world insights quickly. Weekly calls with users in Côte d’Ivoire allowed us to further shorten the feedback and development cycle.
Results: pioneering transparency, empowered consumers
The blockchain prototype allowed us to track the point of origin for specific shipments of cocoa beans, increasing transparency throughout the entire supply chain. Each new batch was logged in the system, giving us real-time insights into the overall mass balance of cocoa beans as they moved from the farms to the cooperative and onward to the exporter. This level of transparency is essential to a company like Tony’s Chocolonely, as it allows them to trace issues with any given shipment back to the source and take steps to prevent those issues in the future. Products can be linked to specific shipments of raw materials and vice versa, increasing the level of traceability and transparency across the value chain.
What made this project unique is that it wasn’t just a theoretical model. We were able to test it in practice, collecting feedback from real users in Côte d’Ivoire. This contributed to an atmosphere of enthusiastic collaboration, where all parties involved were fully on board and committed. And when it comes to testing innovative technologies, getting that commitment is absolutely essential to success.
It's a real win for Tony’s Chocolonely - consumers can now evaluate whether their favorite brands are living up to their promises without the need for third party information, because the blockchain itself provides the transparency they seek.
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