Theo Chocolate: How Far Should Fair Trade Go?

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: February 27, 2015
Length: 12 pages
Product ID#: 1-429-414

Core Disciplines: Ethics, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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Joe Whinney, founder and CEO of Seattle, Washington-based Theo Chocolate, has spent his entire professional career bringing sustainably harvested chocolate to developed nations. His company created the first organic, fair-trade, GMO-free chocolate bar in the U.S., and prides itself on the ethical sourcing of beans from growers mainly located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, and Panama. Whinney, however, faces questions at home in his Seattle factory after media reports allege the company engaged in “emotional blackmail” as well as “manipulation, guilt, (and) intimidation” in an attempt to convince employees not to unionize. Students are asked to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist and find solutions to address employee and shareholder concerns in the wake of the media firestorm.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Define the core values of a business and determine how they should be applied to a company’s actions.
  • Analyze how a company could follow or deviate from its core values and understand the repercussions of either path.
  • Prepare for handling negative media attention associated with decisions related to the business’s core values.