Originally published by Unilever in 2019
Ever wondered where your favourite cup of tea comes from?
Did you know ekaterra is the world’s largest tea company? We’re home to more than 34 brands including Lipton – the world’s most popular tea, PG tips, Brooke Bond, TAZO® and Pure Leaf. Pukka is creating some incredible herbal infusions, and we’ve also great local icons such as Red Rose, JOKO, Lyons and T2.
We buy 5% of the global tea supply from 21 different countries, from India and China to Argentina and Australia, as well as our own plantations in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. This allows us to serve around 385 million tea lovers every single day.
Black and green tea – or Camellia sinensis, to give the plant its proper name – makes up 90% of our tea business. And we’re proud to let everyone know exactly where we source all our tea and herbals from.
The way we source tea really matters
As such a big buyer of tea, we’re always working to make our supply chain even more sustainable. This starts with caring about the people who pick our leaves – right up to how we blend and package our products. We want to make sure our tea is good for both people and planet.
Our brands connect us to millions of people whose livelihoods depend on tea production, and to the ecosystems they share – including on 750,000 smallholdings, mostly in Africa and Asia.
We want everyone in the tea industry to get a fair deal. Our fully traceable tea helps us look after the people who grow and pick it.
The uplifting stories of workers and their families
We’ve published our global supplier list, and collaborate across the industry on a number of social programmes with NGOs and supplier partners. These programmes aim to enhance the livelihoods and wellbeing of local workers, farmers and their families.
To earn a living, farmers often sell their best crops. This leaves them with a diet of rice, maise and wheat. It’s cheap, but lacks much-needed nutrition. Poor hygiene is also a big problem, with diarrhoea being the second biggest killer of children under five years old.
Healthy Diets for Tea Communities is a coalition led by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). The coalition is seeking to reach 750,000 people across Kenya, Malawi and Assam State inIndia by 2023, including farmers and their household members. We’re proud to say that ekaterra is a big supporter of this programme and we look forward to helping people in the tea industry enjoy a healthier diet.
Read our joint paper on how the ‘Seeds of Prosperity’ programme is helping tea workers eat healthier food
Addressing some big challenges
Tea pickers and farmers are part of a broad and complex supply chain that involves nearly 1 million people. This inevitably brings challenges. For instance, we know that human rights abuses persist in some of the countries we source our tea from.
That’s where our Responsible Sourcing comes in. This underpins our commitment to conduct business with integrity, openness and respect for universal human rights and core labour principles throughout our supply chain.
We’ve got a range of programmes that address specific human rights issues around tea. These include women’s safety and labour conditions on tea estates in regions such as Assam in India and Kericho in Kenya, where we continue to work to eradicate unacceptable practices. In 2018, in partnership with UN Women, we launched A Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces . The Framework aims to empower women and girls socially, economically and politically, and helps tea producers to understand the issues facing women, then how to identify and prevent them.
Working with partners like ETP, Dharma Life and GAIN enables us to tackle wider social and environmental issues on an even bigger scale.
For example, in 2017, we became a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), a not-for-profit organisation that brings together the world’s most influential tea businesses to create a fairer, better and more sustainable tea industry for workers, farmers and the environment.
We believe that transparency leads to transformation. And we’re working with partners and suppliers to bring about positive change for people and planet. We consider our customers to be part of this process too, so they can see where their favourite tea comes from and how it's supporting the communities from within. Our aim is to make our tea supply chain even more socially and environmentally sustainable, from bush to cup.