Sprinting for 100% slave-free chocolate

Can Design Sprints be used for tackling social issues and better our communities? Oh yes, they can! Read on to find out how Tony's Chocolonely leveraged the power of the Design Sprint to get more Mission Allies onboard their ambitious mission to make all chocolate 100% slave free.

Design Sprint is an amazing tool to gain clarity, align teams, and make better decisions, faster. 

This is exactly why it’s a favorite of big tech companies like Google, Slack, and Twitter, as well as thousands of startups across the globe.

But can Sprints be used for something bigger than a business challenge? Something like solving social injustice, bettering our communities and spreading positive change? Spoiler alert: yes!

We reached out to the Design Sprint Masterclass alumni and asked them about how they used Sprints to solve impact-driven challenges, and their stories blew us away! Read on to find out how Joost de Leij and Bart Lacroix from Limelights/ Impact Sprint used the power of Sprints to help Tony’s Chocolonely on their mission to make chocolate 100% slave-free. 

Haven’t heard about a Design Sprint before and wondering what the whole buzz is all about? We got you! Read this article to find out  what a Design Sprint is (and why companies all around the world go crazy  about it!)

Who’s Tony’s Chocolonely?

Tony’s Chocolonely is a dutch chocolate company, founded in 2005 with the clear purpose of making all chocolate 100% slave free across the globe. Even if you’re not familiar with the brand yet, we bet you’ll notice it the next time you look for a sweet fix at your grocery store: Tony’s colorful bold branding is hard to overlook. But what draws even more attention, is the story behind the company.

Modern-day slavery and what chocolate has to do with it

Chocolate and slavery? That’s not what comes to mind when you buy your favorite bar of chocolate, right?

The unfortunate reality, however, is that the value and power in the chocolate supply chain are distributed unfairly. 

Let’s break down some numbers to paint the picture:

The global chocolate market size was valued at USD 130.56 billion in 2019. 

According to Tony Chocolonely’s data, 2,5 million farms in Ghana and Ivory Coast produce more than 60% of all cocoa worldwide. So far, so good. The farmers surely must get a nice slice of the chocolate industry profits, right?

Well, not quite.

The average cocoa farmer in Ivory Coast earns 78 euro cents a day. 

On top of that, 1.56 million children work on farms in Ghana and Ivory coast in illegal circumstances, because their parents can’t earn a living income with their produce. 

Recent numbers confirm that at least 30.000 people are victims of modern slavery: both adults and children that are forced to work on the plantations and don’t get paid. 

How does something like this happen in the 21st century? In simple terms, because the non-transparent business model of the cocoa industry and unequal distribution of power between the farmers and the end users make it very easy for big chocolate companies to avoid taking responsibility for the abuse happening at the start of the chain.

As a result, inequality and extreme poverty become the widely accepted status quo.

This is exactly what Tony Chocolonely wants to change with their ambitious mission of making the chocolate 100% slave free.


What question did Tony Chocolonely want to answer in the Sprint?

The Sprint that Joost & Bart and the Limelights/ Impact Sprint team facilitated was closely connected with Tony's Chocolonely mission. The team sprinted on an impact strategy to find and onboard Mission Allies: chocolate companies that want to be part of the change and work together with Tony's on their mission.

The Sprint team consisted of 9 members:

Tony’s Chocolonely: 

  • Deciders Joke Aerts, Open Chain Lead & Paul Schoenmakers, Head of Impact and 
  • Dagmare van Willigenburg, Strategist
  • Thecla Schaeffer, Head of Marketing
  • Frans Jaap Pannekoek, Head of Operations. 

Limelights/ Impact Sprint: 

  • Facilitators Joost de Leij & Bart Lacroix
  • Designer Ashwin Muril
  • Videographer Thomas van Asperen.  


Here’s a quick overview of the Sprint Week:


The Sprint team concentrated on tackling the challenge of onboarding Mission Allies for a few reasons. First off, there are lot's of companies that want to work with Tony's (which is great!) but...changing supply chains is NOT an easy challenge for most companies.

During the mapping phase it became increasingly clear that zooming in on the learn phase would bring the most results: Onboarding potential Mission Allies and teaching them about Tony's sourcing principles and Kotter's 8 steps change model.

The Workshopper Playbook is out now!

Secondly, the Expert Interviews revealed one key insight: companies don't change, people change companies. It's important to activate people within large companies–aka the Mission Allies! And to do that, Tony's team would need to give them the tools, the knowledge, and the energy to start engaging their colleagues and leadership teams.

Testing the Prototype

The Sprint team tested the prototype of the sales deck for Mission Allies with Albert Heijn, a current Mission Ally, and a chocolate supply chain expert involved with Ben & Jerry's. Based on the feedback the team ran an iteration Sprint (we at AJ&Smart are firm believers everyone should!), which led to a ready-to-use Mission Allies roadmap and on boarding workshop.

The outcomes?

The onboarding workshop has been used with potential Mission Allies and has received a positive response, and the updated website for the project is in the works!

Projected impact: more companies buying sustainable chocolate with a premium price (aka more farmers reaching living income!)


This is a prime example of using the power of the Design Sprint to align and tackle a challenge that goes well beyond the usual business KPIs. 

Did you run a Design Sprint that tackles a pressing social issue or helps better your community? Submit your story here and we’ll share it on our channels!

Curious to find out more about the work Limelights/ Impact Sprint do and how Design Sprints can be used to foster positive change? Then check out their websites: Limelights / Impact Sprint

Or give this video a watch:

Curious to find out more about Tony’s Chocolonely and their Open Chain, check out their websites: Tony’s Chocolonely / Open Chain


Joost de Leij

Facilitator of Change, Strategist, Founder @ Limelights & Impact Sprint.