Sustainability is huge in today’s society. Gen-Z and Millennials often care more about where a brand stands and who they give their money to than the product itself. With that being said, sustainable efforts are one of the top ways a company can showcase they are socially and environmentally responsible. Chocolove is an example of a company making the right choices from the beginning of their process.
The company is transparent about their social position and sustainability practices. According to ConfectionaryNews, Chocolove was the first American company to state cocoa content on the front of its bar. Their transparency stems from their overall commitment to customer satisfaction, and it reflects the desires of consumers today.
With more businesses aiming to adopt sustainable practices, I sat down with Chocolove CEO Timothy Moley so he could share his thoughts on sustainability and caring about company choices from the supply chain to the profit margin.
Jeff Fromm: How should brands think about disrupting supply chains to promote sustainability?
Timothy Moley: Before brands think about disrupting the supply chain, they might first consider how to sustain and better the supply chain in which they operate. That starts with a deep understanding of what sustainability actually means. Too often, brands treat sustainability as a marketing effort, but sustainability is much more than a buzzword.
Fromm: So, what does a sustainable supply chain look like, and how can brands make a meaningful difference?
Moley: For us at Chocolove, true sustainability starts with the cocoa farmer, who is rewarded economically with higher prices for their products when they adopt more sustainable practices. The monetary reward encourages them to make choices that better themselves, their families and communities, and the greater good. In simple terms, the farmers can choose to continue to work and to adapt and prosper.
So, a sustainable supply chain starts with an industry base — in this case, farmers — that actively chooses to participate and feels good about their livelihood. I would encourage business leaders to ask themselves what they can do to help the base level of the supply chain prosper and thrive, even amidst climate change, fluctuating currency valuations, wars, recession and natural disasters. I would also advise brands to consider how the decisions they make and the practices they employ today will impact the supply chain five, 10 or even 25 years down the road. Take the long view and focus on the greater good.
Before choosing to disrupt a supply chain, I would ask if disruption is truly going to benefit the greater good. By definition, a supply chain is connected. A business has to ensure each part of the supply chain would be benefitted before disrupting it. A brand can have a much larger impact by prioritizing openness, inclusivity and support than by only seeking to disrupt.
Fromm: What’s the best way to go about integrating sustainability into your brand story?
Moley: Sustainability should be integral to your brand identity and practiced from day one. In other words, walk your talk. Do the work first, and then tell the story of what you are doing second. And when you do tell your story, be open and honest. Don’t overstate your efforts or results, and be careful to give credit to other brands and supply chain partners who have been working on it for many years.
At Chocolove, we know our consumers are aware of the supply chain and care about where their chocolate is coming from and how the cocoa is grown. As a result, we feel we have a responsibility to tell the Chocolove story, which we do consistently on our social channels, website and with our certification logos on wrappers. In fact, we find it’s natural to integrate sustainability into our brand story because consumers want to know.
It’s also easy to integrate sustainability into our operations because we genuinely want the farmers who grow the cocoa that becomes Chocolove to be there year after year. We want farmers to be sustained because our sustainability depends on them.
Since the very beginning, I’ve been motivated to deliver happiness to all of our supply chain key players, starting with our cocoa farmers. It’s why we prioritized becoming an early adopter of cocoa farmer sustainability, cocoa labor certification, cocoa supply traceability and non-GMO certification.
Chocolove offers traceable cocoa that is Rainforest Alliance Certified, which means the cocoa is produced in a way that protects forests with climate-smart and sustainable farming practices. That also advances the rights of rural people and communities with competitive wages and human rights monitoring.
We secure contracts with farmers two to three years in advance of the cocoa delivery in exchange for their agreement to grow cocoa the Chocolove way. By taking part in extra training, inspections and complying with additional rules and record-keeping, farmers receive more money for their cocoa beans. The added benefit of agreeing in advance to pay more for the product is that the farmers leave the beans on the tree a little longer and cure and sort them better, putting love into the cocoa from the start. While paying farmers more means our chocolate costs are higher than industry averages, it also results in a consistent Chocolove taste year after year, which means happier customers.
Fromm: How do you connect sustainability to making a profit?
Moley: Sustainability and profit are very much connected. Simply put, paying more for chocolate raises our costs, but it makes the cocoa farmer and the industry more sustainable. While increased costs reduce our profit, sustainability and chocolate quality are what our customers want. Giving the Chocolove customer sustainability and quality at a price they like allows Chocolove to serve the greater good and to make a small profit. We are privately owned and 27 years in, we have made a little profit along the way — enough to sustain us while feeling good about the love we put into our chocolate.
Doing our part to help supply chain sustainability actually helps to sustain our business because it leads to more devoted customers, who in turn help offset the higher cost of quality. From the farmer who grows the cocoa to the customer who enjoys the result, we sustain each other.
Sustainable choices may look as though they decrease profit, but in the end being socially responsible will vastly outweigh the costs of making ethical decisions. Additionally, companies who choose to incorporate sustainable business practices will be rewarded with customer loyalty and the knowledge they have contributed to making a difference in the world.