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A company crazy about chocolate, serious about people, uses Microsoft Teams to build personal relationships

By Bill Durham
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When you add telephony capabilities to your existing #Microsoft Teams, you equip your team with a powerful system that has everything available in one single interface. Learn how #TonysChocolonely, an Amsterdam impact and chocolate company, uses this system to coordinate easily with their workers in Europe, America, and Africa.
Tonys Chocolonely Logo

With flavors like White Chocolate Raspberry Popping Candy, Milk Cinnamon Biscuit, and Pretzel Toffee in its roster of chocolate bars, it’s immediately clear that Tony’s Chocolonely is not the average chocolate maker. Even the way the chocolate bars break into pieces is unusual—instead of identical squares, a Tony’s chocolate bar is divided into uneven shapes. However, behind Tony’s quirky style is some serious substance. The Dutch company was founded with a mission to end slavery in the cocoa industry, a widespread but little-known problem. To achieve that goal, Tony’s pays cocoa farmers the “Tony’s Premium,” a price for their product that is even higher than the Fairtrade premium. It’s just one of the many ways Tony’s is working with farmers to make its vision of slave-free chocolate a reality.

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Tony’s Chocolonely is a mission company that sells chocolate, and not the other way around. – Most people don’t realize that exploitation is often part of the production of chocolates. 2.1 million children are exposed to illegal labor practices and over 30,000 people are victims of modern slavery. At Tony’s Chocolonely, our mission is to end this. So as soon as COVID-19 hit the world, we started working with our partners. – We had to pivot to remote working to stay connected, and Microsoft 365 really helped us achieve this. (gentle music) – The power of Microsoft Teams, is that it is open for business partners to amplify the solution with their own solutions. What Vodafone did for Tony’s Chocolonely, was that we provide our telephony solution within a Microsoft team’s application, so that those teams users can make and receive phone calls within one application. – The benefit of bringing a partner is that you use it for each specialty. Our company is called KbWorks, and we have implemented Microsoft Teams within the company of Tony’s Chocolonely. – We’re using all the features of it, for virtual meetings for working together on project teams and combining those functionalities makes it very powerful. It actually allowed us to switch from one day to the next working from home seamlessly in Africa, as well as here in Europe and the US. – [Narrator] We started a program where we donated chocolate to frontline workers and to food banks. As a social impact company, that’s the least we can do to give back to society. (laughing) – That’s why we call ourselves an impact company, another chocolate company. We want other chocolate companies to join our mission and make systemic change in the world. (gentle music)

Today, Tony’s is the leading chocolate brand in the Netherlands, and it’s expanded quickly to new markets, including the United Kingdom and the United States. When COVID-19 hit, that momentum could have come to a halt, but since the company had invested in Microsoft 365—including Microsoft Teams—it was able to transition to remote work at a moment’s notice. That means Tony’s didn’t miss a beat advocating its mission for social good.

Culture building in a crisis: Tony’s makes a difference with Teams

Tony’s passion is taking care of people at every level of the supply chain, from cocoa farmers in Ghana and the Ivory Coast to office staff in Amsterdam and the United States. In addition to paying the Tony’s premium, Tony’s supports the “100WEEKS” initiative through the “Chocolonely Foundation,” an independent organization that supports Tony’s mission. A local partner of “100WEEKS” selects a group of women from cocoa farming communities who live in extreme poverty. They receive €8 (USD8.98) a week for 100 weeks, in addition to coaching in accounting, planning, and saving. It’s a testament to Tony’s belief that extreme poverty is at the root of exploitation in the cocoa supply chain, and the company’s commitment to doing something about it.

In the wake of COVID-19, Teams became an indispensable tool to help Tony’s employees stay connected to every part of the supply chain. “At Tony’s, we have a very direct relationship with cocoa producers on the Ivory Coast,” says Diara Lo, Impact Analyst at Tony’s Chocolonely. “Almost monthly, we would visit in person. Right now, with COVID-19, we make use of Teams meetings to maintain our close relationships and reassure our suppliers that we can get through the pandemic.”

At Tony’s, a shared mission and a strong corporate culture bind employees together. Teams is helping keep that connection strong even when everyone is working from home. Tony’s employees are taking to Teams to start virtual book clubs, participate in themed weekly meetings like “flip-flop formal Friday,” digital happy hours, fitness classes, and have even launched a Teams channel called “The Playground” that supports open dialogue and collaboration.

Responding to change: Sharing something sweet while “achieving social good” 

When the COVID-19 crisis first disrupted “business as usual,” Stephanie Iller Drachman, US Special Projects at Tony’s, was in Seattle, Washington, on the Tony’s Chocolonely “Chocotruck Tour,” an experiential exhibit that travels across the country raising awareness about Tony’s mission. Social distancing regulations forced Iller Drachman and team to rethink how they shared the company’s message.

According to Iller Drachman, the question of the hour was, “How do we take this dynamic physical experience and transition it online?” Capitalizing on Tony’s innovative mindset, the answer, in part, was using Teams to brainstorm new ideas about the company’s mission—while staying safe. “Teams has opened up the possibility of rethinking businesses as a way to achieve social good. We spend time on Teams having important conversations, figuring out new ways that Tony’s can show up and share something sweet at the same time we educate people about important issues.”

Tony’s employees are also using Teams meetings to organize new expressions of its socially conscious culture. Even though in-person meetings with farmers are on hold for now, the Tony’s team arranged wellness checks for cocoa farmers, making sure they received sanitation supplies and medical support. And at Tony’s offices in Europe and North America, employees are enjoying weekly themed care packages designed to boost morale, sent to them by employees at Tony’s headquarters in Amsterdam. Local food banks, hospitals, and community kitchens in cities across the United States, from Portland, Oregon, to Savannah, Georgia, are also being treated to donations of Tony’s chocolate.

“We’ve donated almost 200,000 pieces of chocolate all over America, sending chocolate to 23 states,” says Iller Drachman. “And since this year’s travel budget is on hold, that money was reallocated to local charities.”

Staying connected: Advancing the company’s mission 

Chief Evangelist Ynzo van Zanten flies all over the world, telling the story of Tony’s mission. However, since the advent of COVID-19, Van Zanten continues to work from home, using Teams to connect with audiences. “Recently, I presented to a school in Australia,” says Van Zanten. “I had to wake up at 6 AM to do it but presenting through Teams and reaching people on the other side of the world has been amazing.”

Tony’s employees also use Teams to host global updates that bring the entire organization together—an entirely new venture, and one that’s likely to continue even after the need for remote work has ended. “We have more face-to-face meetings now,” says Van Zanten. “I would love to skip half the flights I take every year and work online instead. I love the flexibility of Teams meetings and being able to keep up the fun, social stuff we all miss from being together in an office.”

Maintaining the connection between geographically dispersed employees is crucial for pushing Tony’s social mission forward, and Teams has emerged as a galvanizing, integral tool. “Culture is key,” says Van Zanten. “It’s only with the most committed and engaged team that we can reach our mission of 100 percent slavery-free chocolate worldwide.”

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Jump-starting transformation with the help of Microsoft partners

Tony’s conducted its business and charitable work during the COVID-19 crisis because it had already begun its journey to the cloud. The company was prompted to look for more agile digital tools to handle its global expansion. While rapidly increasing demand for its chocolate was a “sweet” problem for the company—last year Tony’s sold approximately 43 million chocolate bars—its outdated business tools were not up to the task of uniting a global workforce and keeping the momentum going. Tony’s enlisted the help of Vodafone and KbWorks, members of the Microsoft Partner Network, to jumpstart a digital transformation at the company.

“Tony’s needed an application that could easily scale to the growth of its organization,” says Nina Moers, Senior Product Manager at Vodafone. “Microsoft Teams is a really good solution that makes it easy for a company to collaborate internationally and help achieve that growth.” Vodafone and KbWorks worked in tandem to highlight different parts of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem and create the most value for Tony’s. For example, Vodafone helped Tony’s take advantage of Microsoft 365 Business Voice, which integrates telephony services in the Teams interface. “What we’re doing at Vodafone is connecting telephony solutions to Microsoft Teams to create one voice solution for collaboration and communication within the same application,” says Moers.

Vodafone also helped Tony’s set up the “Chocophone,” a contact center for customers. “We helped Tony’s to integrate the contact center with the Teams application,” says Moers. “Employees working in the call center now use Teams to reach out to other people within their organization, improving customer service by finding answers more quickly.”

Tony’s also took advantage of Teams to streamline a workplace that was overcrowded with collaboration solutions. “Prior to moving to Teams, Slack was widely used at Tony’s,” explains Paul Keijzers, Founder of KbWorks. “It was one of several solutions that didn’t perform well and was not always compliant. With Teams, all employees use the same solution to work more securely from everywhere.”

Tony’s continues to work with both partners to take advantage of more Teams capabilities in the future. The company plans on setting up Microsoft Teams Rooms at the Amsterdam head office for an optimal collaboration experience with employees and external partners who work remotely.

Business continuity: Experiencing the value of a digital workplace 

Because Tony’s was already in the cloud and Teams was entrenched across the organization, the transition to remote work brought on by COVID-19 was smooth and productivity didn’t suffer. “We’ve been using Microsoft Teams for just over a year,” says Marijn Bijnen, Head of BI, Strategy & IT at Tony’s Chocolonely. “In that year it became critical to our business. We use all the features, for chat messages, for virtual meetings, for working together on project teams and so forth. When COVID came, being prepared and already working in the Microsoft 365 digital workplace helped us seamlessly switch to a work-from-home scenario—from one day to the next.”

For example, staff take advantage of Teams to simplify business tasks, such as creating an annual report or co-authoring documents. Tony’s also connects and collaborates with external partners on Teams. Recently, Iller Drachman used the tool to work with a video producer on a project with Tony’s. “We ended up getting on Teams for a remote work session with a live document. We were able to quickly finalize the document and finalize the video shoot in three countries for the following week,” she says.

Looking ahead: Spreading Tony’s vision for the future 

Tony’s started out as a small company with a huge mission—to make 100 percent slave-free chocolate the norm. Today, Tony’s is proving that a thriving business can also drive social change. In the midst of the COVID-19 experience, Tony’s explored new ways of working but never wavered from its vision for social good. After experiencing the full value of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, effortless collaboration, and integrated tools, Tony’s is reimagining the future of work.

“Communicating with my colleagues through Teams has opened up a whole new way to interact that feels more personal—you see people’s homes and meet their families,” says Lo. “Using Teams gives people the freedom to build the lives they want—one of my colleagues used the opportunity to make his dream of moving to the country happen. He can continue to work remotely and come into the office once a week.” For a company that is “serious about people,” using tools like Teams helps Tony’s build a workplace that puts employees first. “That’s what motivates us to keep doing this work,” says Iller Drachman. “With Teams we’re all connected to achieve our goals, one chocolate bar at a time.”

Find out more about Tony’s Chocolonely on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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