Tony Chocolonely: a Taste of Meaningfulness

I love chocolate! Caramel, sea salt chocolate is my favorite. However if you ever ate chocolate in your life, most likely you committed an offense by eating chocolate harvested by forced underage workers (i.e child slavery) as it is common practice all over the globe. So let me introduce you to a very special Dutch company called Tony Chocolonely. A company that has over the past 10 years captured 16.7% of the total revenue of all chocolate bars in Dutch supermarkets in a very special way. Intrigued by what Tony Chocolonely has to offer. Let’s taste meaningfulness!


I have talked often about meaningfulness in my blog posts but what is it exactly? In essence, it is the quality of having a definite purpose (“to do something”) that is significant (“making sense”). So not only having a purpose but being able to implement actions to reach it step by step. To live it every day with amplitude. The purpose of Tony Chocolonely is very simple “slave free chocolate” and the company is everyday pushing to realize this purpose.

Meaningful Organization : “Achieving a positive role into the world through a flourishing work force”

However, meaningfulness for an organisation goes beyond a positive impact to the world, it is done also via a workforce who is totally engaged and thriving to realise it. In the case of Tony Chocolonely it is reflected in their core philosophy “crazy about chocolate, serious about people”. Tony Chocolonely is an organization “achieving a positive role into the world through a flourishing work force”, what I call “Meaningful Organizations”. But what is so particular about the purpose of Tony? And its operationlization on  day to day basis?

Long term view

Instead of extrapolating from the past what could happen in the future, Tony Chocolonely has defined a long term roadmap based on 3 pillars (create awareness, lead by example, inspire to act) that shape daily activities. These pillars are going beyond profit only to contribute to their ultimate purpose (slave free chocolate). Starting with the end in mind allows to trigger more disruptive thinking in terms of actions compared to relying fully on what has worked in the past.

By being so authentic about their purpose and pillars, word of mouth occurs around Tony’s products. To the point that Tony Chocolonely does not use any traditional marketing (e.g, TV adds) but an ever growing network of Tony’s fans that tell Tony’s story around (more than 60% of the customers know the purpose/story of Tony).Tony also pushes transparency to the extreme. In their value chain from farmer to consumer tracking cacao beans but also in terms of social and environment impact. Tony’s has passed for instance the BCorp assessment, a third party standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards, meet accountability standards, and to be transparent to the public according to the score they receive on the assessment.

Serious about people

Ultimately meaningful organisations rely on a flourishing workshop to achieve their positive purpose. And Tony Chocolonely is crazy about chocolate and serious about people, including its own. First by relying on 4 core values (outspoken, wilful, makes you smile, entrepreneurial) or by acknowledging the necessary balance between professional and personal life. This does not go against excellence as Tony has recorded a growth of 53% last year in revenue and expending in the US and UK in 2018 . In the video below at 10.30min, Ynzo van Zanten chief evangelist at Tony describes some of the internal HR practices in place in the company.

For me, like Board of Innovation describes in a previous blog, Tony illustrates how meaningfulness emerges in organizations, by using purpose as a beacon of strategy, by articulating and living fully a clear set of values, and by seeing flourishing employees as a goal in itself rather than a medium only.So caramel, sea salt chocolate! Here I come. Slave free…All pictures extracted from Tony Chocolonely annual report 2016/2017.

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