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Becoming nature restorative

Article was originally published on 21/05/2021 on unilever.com

As the world’s biggest tea company, we need to rely on all sorts of resource-intensive processes to bring tasty teas to your cups.

Teas – other than loose leaf – need to be bagged. Bags need to be made up and boxed.

With 100 billion cups being enjoyed every year, we need to work continuously on reducing our environmental footprint. And because we are such a big company, even the tiniest changes we make can have a major effect.

The good news is, we’ve set ourselves ambitious goals not just to use fewer resources and save even more energy – but actually to restore and supplement nature itself.

It’s our commitment to being ‘nature restorative’, giving back more than we take.

Here are five ways we are helping:

1. Drive restorative forestation by 2023

  • By 2023, we’re making sure that all the tea, paper board and wood used in making our teas will be sustainably managed.

  • In Kenya, we’re working with our partners to restore the South Western Mau forest, which borders our Kenyan tea estates. The forest is one of the most important water towers in Africa.

  • We’re ‘freezing time’ on our land footprint. By combining good farming methods based on years of tea-growing, and research-based interventions and new varieties, since 1993 we’ve found ways to double our yields from the same area of land. We’ll keep moving in this direction – using precision agriculture, improved crop breeds and tea-specific farming techniques.

2. 100% sustainably sourced by 2025

  • As early as 2025, we’ll be able to say all our tea is sustainably sourced.

  • We’re partnering with industry leading experts to make this happen for our black and green teas. We’re already close to our goal.

  • And we’ll work with our suppliers to sustainably source our botanicals – many of which will also be Organic, Fair Wild or Fair for Life certified.

3. We’ll be ‘regenerative sourcing’ by 2030 – starting with our own tea estates.

  • We’re putting our focus on soil health. We’ve already converted 382 hectares of land to organic, creating one of the largest organic tea estates in the world.

  • We’re driving a circular economy in tea production. For instance, no plant material is wasted: any prunings or green-leaf that don’t make the grade are returned to the fields to release nutrients back to the soil.

4. We’re doing our bit for biodiversity

  • There’s rich biodiversity on our tea estates, including some rare and endangered species. We’ve dedicated land in Kenya to conservation, and have created an extensive network of wildlife corridors, which we’re committed to preserving.

  • In Tanzania, our plantation is close to the Mufindi Natural Forest –  part of the Easter Arc mountains and one of the top 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Over 50% of it is already under conservation.

  • We’re protecting global natural tea diversity, mitigating the effects of climate change and preserving our teas’ quality and wellbeing traits for future generations.

  • Bam! We’re wiping out pesticides. We use a natural form of disease control on our tea bushes. And we emphasize good agricultural practices, such as cover cropping, natural biodiversity and regular maintenance to control pests and weeds. We’re on track to phase out pesticides completely by 2025.

5. We’re fine-tuning fertiliser use

  • Soil health is a priority for us. In turn, it stores carbon, increases biodiversity, mitigates drought, and reduces the need for agrochemicals.

  • We’re already lean with our fertiliser application: our tea crop gets just what it needs, and no more.

  • By combining precision agriculture with the latest scientific research, technology, modelling and holistic farming techniques, we’re lowering chemical fertiliser use even further, while still maintaining our yields.