In this week’s case study: the potential reputation pitfall in claiming to be an ethical company

In our media training, we coach spokespeople to be scrupulously honest.

If you take a strong ethical stance, you need to live up to the expectations you create. And you shouldn’t be surprised if the media calls you out on your claims, especially if they turn out to be more nuanced than what the public might anticipate. And so it was this week for chocolate manufacturer, Tony’s Chocolonely.

With a slogan saying, “let’s make chocolate 100% slave free”, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the company is itself not using illegal child labour. Especially when your packaging exhorts the buyer in large letters to consider “what does inhuman/ injustice/ inequality mean to you?”.

A nuanced website explanation that “we have a road map to get there” seems a little disingenuous. The public would reasonably presume that such punchy, virtue signalling is from someone squeaky clean.

This week’s negative media coverage was stimulated by the company’s own published audit of its supply chain revealing 1,700 instances of child Labour. This was a noble publication and could be said to shine a spotlight on the issue. But the company has taken a reputation hit – if only with my own children – because its simplistic public stance doesn’t stand detailed scrutiny.

Contact us to explore how our story-led media training can help your spokespeople: 020 7323 2770 or

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