First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Catalina Iorga
In 2015, Tony’s Chocolonely celebrated a decade of its journey towards achieving a 100% slavery-free chocolate industry. The idea first emerged in 2002, when Dutch broadcast journalist Teun (or ‘Tony’) van de Keuken uncovered the harsh reality of child slavery on many West African cocoa plantations.
Faced with the reluctance of major chocolate producers to act on this issue (hence, the ‘lonely’ part of the brand’s name), van de Keuken decided to start a socially minded business that aims to source fair-trade – and, if possible, organic – cocoa from fully transparent and responsible farmers.
Now led by Chief Chocolate Officer Henk Jan Beltman, who cut his teeth in the food sector as the Benelux Country Manager of Innocent Drinks, the company introduced its Bean-to-Bar programme in 2013 and established long-term relationships with two FAIRTRADE-certified cocoa cooperatives in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which now provide roughly half of the beans Tony’s Chocolonely needs.
But it’s not only through its operating model that this enterprise contributes to a slave-free cocoa supply chain. The Chocolonely Foundation receives 1% of the company’s net turnover for activities such as building a new shelter for former child slaves in Burkina Faso and research to better the cocoa industry.
Dining in complete darkness is a relatively new culinary development. The first such restaurant, Blindekuh (‘Blind Man’s Bluff’) opened in Zurich in 1999, and the concept soon made its way to Amsterdam. Partially inspired by a Parisian dinner in the dark, Sandra Ballij and Bas de Ruiter left their bank jobs in 2007 to start one of the first commercially successful social enterprises in the Netherlands.
The Ctaste restaurant helps to tackle the staggering 70% rate of unemployment for people with sensory disabilities by recognising the unique abilities of blind or visually impaired staff. Using skills such as excellent attention to detail and spatial awareness, partially sighted waiters guide guests to their tables in a pitch-black room and answer any questions that arise as patrons try to decipher the flavour combinations of their surprise meals.
Emboldened by the restaurant’s success – it attracts nearly 20,000 visitors a year – Ballij and de Ruiter started CtheCity and Ctalents. The former is a multisensory tour of Amsterdam in the dark, which is given by blind guides and held in a 300m2 room that simulates scenes of the city. The latter is a diversity-management agency, which trains sensory-talented young professionals and matches them to inclusive employers.
This unique service-oriented social enterprise dates back to 2007, when, inspired by a documentary on the massive growth of mobile phones in Africa, Amsterdam-based entrepreneur Hajo van Beijma and marketing expert Bas Hoefman decided to harness this growth by using mobile technology to connect organisations to previously hard-to-reach audiences.
Since then, TTC Mobile has worked with everyone from international organisations such as the United Nations to governmental authorities like the US Department of Foreign Affairs and big NGOs, including the Gates Foundation. The company’s mission is to reach as many people as possible in developing countries with free text-message info that enables positive behavioural change in areas of their lives such as health, finance, agriculture and education.
TTC Mobile’s most recent effort, the PRIORRI Financial Literacy Training project, launched in February 2016 in cooperation with the World Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture of Mozambique, will see the company helping farmers save money through its interactive SMS platform Vusion that, every two months, sends farmers text messages summarising the amount of money saved up to that point.
Paul Malschaert, who has a background in IT and business development, was inspired by the vision of strong community relationships illustrated by sociologist Jeremy Rifkin in one of his books, The European Dream. In 2008, Malschaert decided to start up Swink, a social enterprise centred on the same inclusive ideal. Co-owned since 2014 by former ING Marketing Manager Niels van Buren, Swink (Old English for ‘strenuous labour’) gives people usually excluded from the job market an outlet for their ambitions and abilities. This small company helps medium-sized organisations in areas such as healthcare and government to boost their online presence.
Most of Swink’s employees have a form of autism, such as Asperger’s, and have found in the company a supportive environment where they can use their often above-average intelligence and analytical skills for assignments like website SEO, social-media management and helpdesk outsourcing. With places such as the medical centre of the VU (one of Amsterdam’s two research universities) on its roster of happy clients, Swink also prides itself on having recently acquired a B Corporation certification from B Lab, thus joining the ranks of more than 1,380 businesses around the world that meet strict social-sustainability and environmental-performance standards.
This Amsterdam-based social enterprise was set up in 2011 by Patrick Munsters, former creative director of Dutch denim makers Scotch & Soda, and Carel Neuberg, a former ICT executive, soon after a UN resolution adopted in July 2010 recognised the human right to water and sanitation.
Marie-Stella-Maris makes paraben-free natural cosmetics and also distributes mineral water sourced locally, from the Dutch town of Hoensbroek – less than 200km away from Amsterdam – and the St. Nikolaus spring in the Rhine region. The company’s mission is, in Neuberg’s own words, ‘to provide clean drinking water to as many people as possible’.
For each purchase, Marie-Stella-Maris donates a fixed amount to its eponymous foundation in support of clean-drinking-water projects. The foundation has already spearheaded eight such initiatives, ensuring that 17,000 people in Bangladesh, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda now have access to safe drinking water.