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Balancing Profit and Purpose – feat. Divine Chocolate

We caught up with Ruth Harding, Managing Director at Divine Chocolate.

The purpose of our series “Balancing Profit and Purpose” is to feature fellow B Corporations, to hopefully inspire many more to join the movement. We showcase those companies that meet rigorously verified standards of social and environmental performance, those that use business as a force for good. As a collective, B Corps are accelerating a global cultural shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

Alice @ ADLIB: For some background information, who are you as a business and what makes your business offering unique?

Ruth Harding: So Divine Chocolate is a premium chocolate company, we were set up by a cooperative of Ghanaian cocoa farmers in order to change the way the chocolate sector is run. We have a unique business model that reflects the belief that producers should earn a share of the profits they help to create and a say in how the company is run. Kuapa Kokoo is a farmer cooperative in Ghana who grows the quality cocoa that makes Divine Chocolate so delicious, and they also own a stake in the company. So, this means:

  • Kuapa Kokoo farmers receive a share of the profits they help to create, giving them more to invest in their families, farms and communities.
  • Kuapa Kokoo has a 40% board representation at Divine – thus has a significant influence on the strategic decisions of the business and farmers have a say in their future
  • Divine invests in producer support and development programmes that are farmer led and developed ensuring that they address the key challenges they face
  • On top of this farmers get paid a Fairtrade price and a Fairtrade premium for their cocoa.

We’re also a 100% Fairtrade business, so that means that not only our cocoa is Fairtrade but also our sugar, which is quite unusual for a chocolate company. Wherever possible we use Fairtrade ingredients which includes our inclusions and nuts such as coconut flakes and almonds, that’s quite unique and quite special. What that means for the business is that when consumers buy a bar of chocolate, they’re actually buying into a different way of doing business by supporting an alternative business operation, so they’re able to spend their money and promote a better force for change!

Alice @ ADLIB: What got you interested in joining the B Corp movement and what does being a B Corp mean to you?

Ruth Harding: For Divine, becoming a B Corp was a logical step forward. If you think of Fairtrade, and when the Fairtrade movement started, it was really about an ingredients-based assessment, so looking at the ingredients throughout the supply chain.

B Corp looks at business as a whole, so it’s almost like a logical step forward and it just makes business sense in that respect.

For me personally, I think being a B Corp is recognising that things need to change.

If you think about the challenges we are facing in the world, if you think about the things that are happening, they’re very real, they’re quite daunting and they’re going to impact everyone. So, I think being a B Corp recognises that we need to redefine business and who it serves, who it represents, and where the profits go. But also, that if we redefine business, it can be a mechanism to help people and planet and serve and address some of these big global issues in a connected way, as opposed to a siloed way where profits only serve a few people.

Alice @ ADLIB: Can you share a little bit about your B Corp story, what the process was like for you?

Ruth Harding: Divine became a B Corp in 2016, so quite a while ago and we’ve actually gone through the second rounds of assessments as of last year, so that just shows that we’ve done two detailed assessments to date.

Reflecting on the actual assessment itself, it’s very detailed and I think that’s something that everyone speaks to. But then if you lean into that and think as to why it’s detailed, it’s because its rigorous. So actually, it’s something that should take time, and needs to be taken seriously by businesses, so I think the fact that its detailed, that its rigorous, just gives kudos to the assessment as a whole which I think is quite good. It means it’s very respected with those who actually go through the process.

I think the other thing that we reflect upon in terms of the process and the story, I know lots of people say this but it really does ring true for us, is that it’s a very helpful assessment so the detail that you then go through step by step, you’re actually in that process exploring different aspects of your business and you’re shining a light on areas which you may not have thought about before. You are looking at aspects of the business and questions that you’ve never asked yourself either, so it’s actually a very helpful industry framework to get you as a business, or people within your business, thinking about different things you may not have thought about.

It’s a very holistic approach, and for that it’s very helpful because it changes, and it evolves. We found when we went from the first assessment, when we were on one version, that two to three years later when we came back and looked at it again, that the questions had evolved and changed which was interesting because it got us to think how can we push forward and keep relevant and constant? And keep being able to tackle some of these issues which obviously, the world is changing, the issues are changing, so you must think about ‘how do we keep adapting and evolving?’ in order to keep addressing some of the societal and environmental issues.

Alice @ ADLIB: In your case, what does it mean for your workers, customers, community and environmental considerations?

Ruth Harding: The first thing I’d like to say is that with B Corp you’re on a journey of continuous improvement so there are things that we do across each of those four pillars, but we recognise as well that we’re not able to do everything on day one. And so, we’re able through the community of B Corp’s and speaking with others, to progress that forward and recognise that we’re on a journey and how we continuously improve.

More specifically though to your question around workers particularly, we want to create a culture of curiosity where people feel empowered and able to do their roles. We do a lot of work in the ‘Community’ and think it’s important to emulate that in Workforce as well.

We’re very conscious to ensure that everyone’s voice is represented and shared at Divine, I think that’s really important. We have a staff committee so that people can think through any initiatives or ideas that they have and then get the opportunity to report that up to more senior teams. In terms of the environment, obviously we’re a chocolate company so we have a product, so everything we do as much as we can we look to minimise the impact of that product. So that can go as far as the actual ingredients that go into that bar, so we don’t use any monocultures such as soy or palm oil, and our product range is also GMO free.

Monocultures have a huge impact on the environment so we’re proud not to use anything within our product range that relates to that.

Packaging is another thing where we work very hard to ensure that all of our products are recyclable where it can be. We were very proud last Easter to remove the plastic from our Easter eggs and also, we innovate around environmental considerations, so our Easter egg box actually has three sides instead of four, which means it uses three sides of cardboard as opposed to four so we’re very mindful as we design new products to consider the environment but also to innovate within our existing range to minimise the impact through the supply chain as well. We’re very proud to be part of the B Corp movement!