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Chocolate brand Tony's Chocolonely adds legal locks to protect its mission forever

Even the most virtuous purpose-driven company can see its core values overshadowed as the business evolves, when it raises capital or changes hands. To prevent that from happening to Tony's Chocolonely, the chocolate brand just unveiled its new legal structure: Tony's Mission Lock. The framework aims to institutionalize the firm's goal of eliminating child labor and illegal labor from the chocolate industry, ensuring mission continuity regardless of potential changes in governance.

The Mission Lock operates by bestowing a 'golden share' to independent Mission Guardians. This symbolic share allows the guardians to protect the company's mission-related clauses from modifications without their approval. Additionally, the Mission Guardians, selected for their expertise, can exercise other forms of intervention if they sense a drift from the company's purpose or sourcing principles. 

If they have concerns, they can initiate investigations, suggest corrections and — if needed — invoke a legal inquiry. They're also entitled to share their views on two pages in Tony's annual FAIR report and have the right to publicize serious issues in national newspapers across Tony's major markets. The brand spent 18 months nailing down its new legal structure. Offering other mission-driven companies a fast track, Tony's will soon publish a detailed and fully open-source guide on the steps it has taken.

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In September 2022, Patagonia announced it was making Earth its only shareholder, with all voting stock owned by the Patagonia Purpose Trust, to "help ensure that there is never deviation from the intent of the founder and to facilitate what the company continues to do best: demonstrate as a for-profit business that capitalism can work for the planet."

Like Patagonia's pioneering move, Tony's Mission Lock forms a robust mechanism to perpetuate the company's pursuit of its purpose. By demonstrating how to protect and uphold core values in the long term, both brands are offering a blueprint for other mission-driven companies. They could also inspire purely profit-driven companies to enshrine climate and other critical goals, avoiding the turbulence Amazon is now facing; after word came out that Amazon had quietly abandoned decarbonization goalsemployees are walking out.