Sustainable Tea is essential, being the second most widely consumed beverage in the world. This guide covers certifications as well as ethical, organic, and fair trade tea brands.
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By Ana Yong
Table of Contents
- A Brief Introduction: The Need for Sustainable Tea
- Types of Certifications for Sustainable Tea
A List of and Ethical and Sustainable Tea Brands
- Cusa Tea and Coffee
- Dilmah Tea
- Firepot Normadic Teas
- Clipper Teas
- Arbor Teas
- Pukka Herbs
- The Republic of Tea (TRoT)
- Little Red Cup Tea Co.
- Lipton Tea (Unilever)
- Last Word on Sustainable Tea
A Brief Introduction: The Need for Sustainable Tea
According to Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc., tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. Therefore, consumers would be interested to know not only which tea brands are sustainable and ethical but also the type of certifications that are used for teas.
Types of Certifications for Sustainable Tea
UTZ is the certified standard for sustainably grown coffee, tea (plus rooibos and herbal teas) and cocoa.
Tea farmers, growers and producers are concerned with many environmental challenges that affect the quality and yield of tea. Social factors like safe working conditions, having regular meal breaks, etc. also constitute important aspects of qualifying for certification.
UTZ certified tea growers are educated in areas of using improved agricultural techniques, how to safeguard their workers and the ecology and ultimately earning a decent wage so as to improve their standard of living.
Businesses whose products display the UTZ logos show that they support sustainable agriculture by obtaining UTZ or Rainforest Alliance certified teas. Such teas are supplied by farmers who have been certified by UTZ and use farming methods that defend the ecosystem. These producers are also repeatedly audited to ensure that the strict sustainability program of UTZ is adhered to.
The UTZ Standard is directed by the values of equality and openness, and functions through two series of principles: Code of Conduct (for growing and gathering processes) and Chain of Custody (encompassing products from the time they leave the farm to the instant they land on the shelves).
This code sets out the foundations for using improved agricultural systems, implementing healthier employment stipulations and preserving the land. To ensure that farmers follow the Code of Conduct, consistent audits are conducted by external auditors. If the farmers pass the audit, they can use the UTZ logo on their products. This certification opens new doors to international markets which they previously could not access.
All tea sales are logged in the UTZ licenced traceability software: Good Inside Portal. In addition, farmers are required to fulfil the conditions related to farm security and administration, data storing, worker and land safety. The Code of Conduct is evaluated and improved upon at least every five years.
The Chain of Custody tracks the movement of UTZ certified products from the time they leave the farm to the instant they are placed on the shop shelves. This provides proof that the product has come from a UTZ-approved source. Here again, products are tracked in the Good Inside Portal for tea products.
The Rainforest Alliance helps tea growers make the best use of modern agricultural methods to produce the best types of tea. In addition, these methods also sustain and protect the land. Here, tea farmers are given fair wages, safe working environments and access to the international tea market.
This Program deals with small scale tea farmers, co-operatives and business establishments in the tea supply chain to fight for the rights of farmers by giving them fair wages, implementing secure work conditions, improving hygienic living situations, reducing gender bias, providing educational opportunities, and also provides suggestions to mitigate the risks created by climate change on the supply and production of tea.
In 2017, a projected 20% of the more than 6.1 million tones of tea produced worldwide was Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Almost 70,000 cups of tea are consumed every second of the day, it is the world’s favorite drink after water. Fairtrade tea is defined as all types of teas that are made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. As this plant is available all year round, it is used to produce white, green, oolong, black and pu’erh teas. Herbs and spices are also certified by Fairtrade International as they form the foundation of numerous herbal teas.
- Fairtrade Minimum Price
Farmers, growers and producers all receive a Fairtrade Minimum Price which has been modified to take into account geographical factors and production methods (for example, organic tea enjoys a better price). The minimum price protects these people should there be a sudden price dip, thereby, protecting the businesses from severe losses.
- Fairtrade Premium
Farmer members of Fairtrade International enjoy a premium in addition to the price paid for their teas and together they will decide on how to spend this money. Usually, they will choose to use the money for educational purposes for their family members or themselves, as financial loans to each other or for enablement schemes to better themselves.
- International Coalition
Working together with many established organizations, Fairtrade International aims to create living wage yardsticks so as to provide a decent standard of living for tea workers.
- Extraordinary Advantages
These include having entry to international markets which these farmers formerly did not have and strengthening the voice of small scale and individual farmers in building a strong and unified power in collective bargaining.
The Fairtrade Foundation is a component of the worldwide Fairtrade organization and is the UK member of Fairtrade International.
- FF administers the licensing of the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK.
- FF promotes the preference for Fairtrade certified products and help producers earn a fair return when selling to business establishments.
- FF provides support (financial or otherwise) to farmers, growers and producers so that they can better themselves.
- FF elevates the function of Fairtrade in building a fair and equitable way to conduct business, especially with small scale farmers from impoverished communities.
The Core Fairtrade Mark is recognised by 93% of UK shoppers and 83% of consumers trust that a product with this mark was produced ethically. This is a registered accreditation trademark for products obtained from farmers, growers and producers from developing countries.
The mission of Fair Trade Certified is to create a world of reliable businesses, conscientious consumerism to remove abject poverty and allow supportable growth for producers, their family members and impoverished populations worldwide.
Products with this seal are created under conditions that meet the social, ecological and commercial standards of Fair Trade Certified. Consumers can be certain that these items were made by workers operating in secure settings, the ecology is safeguarded, employees’ welfare and livelihoods are maintained, and extra money is paid to enable needy societies to improve on their standard of living.
- More than 975,000 farmers from 45 countries were able to obtain improved terms and conditions with their trading allies.
- Fair Trade certified farmers and employees from around the world have enjoyed monetary benefits totalling $740 million since 1998.
- Fair Trade Certified products are created according to more than 700 social, economic and ecological requirements.
- There are more than 1,250 conscientious business concerns associated with Fair Trade Certification.
The USDA comprises 29 agencies and offices with almost 100,000 employees working at more than 4,500 venues in the United States and overseas. The aim is to offer financial opportunities to communities in rural America so that they can prosper, introduce cultivation of crops that nurtures Americans whilst feeding others worldwide and conserve America’s natural reserves through preservation, restoring forests, developing watersheds and private lands.
Note: USDA was formed on 15 May 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln when he signed legislation to create the United States Department of Agriculture.
USDA offers loans to farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain credit from banks. These loans allow farmers to buy property, livestock, machinery, feed, seed, and supplies. They can also be used to build farms and make enhancements to existing farm lands.
Rural Americans are given the opportunity to own a home through USDA’s housing assistance schemes which can also be used to make upgrades to homes to improve the structure, security and cleanliness of the buildings. Home rental assistance is also available to qualified families, the aged and persons with infirmities.
Rural Development Loan and Grant Assistance
USDA funds developments that provide housing, business, utilities and other amenities to those living in rural areas. More business opportunities are also created for rural groups and promotes sustainable energy and energy proficiency advances.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
USDA, through the Farm Service Agency, provides direct and guaranteed loans to first-time farmers and ranchers who cannot obtain a loan from banks.
USDA, through the Risk Management Agency, assists farmers to mitigate livestock risks by educating them on how to practise sensible risk management techniques.
Federal State Marketing Improvement Program
This is a matching fund program that supplies equivalent funds to State Departments of Agriculture and other eligible State agencies to create new business openings and to conduct research to advance the effectiveness of the marketing approach.
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
Fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture) are considered Speciality Crops where this grant applies and is used to develop the crops’ competitiveness in the market.
The Farmers Market Promotion Program
This grant is used to enlarge local farmer markets, roadside stalls, publicly supported farming projects and direct producer-to-customer business prospects.
Organic Cost Share Program
To qualify for this program, beneficiaries must first be certified by a USDA recognised verifying agent. This provides cost-sharing aid to organic producers and/or organic handlers.
In the 1960s, the Soil Association created the first global organic standards which meet stringent European legislation regarding the production of organic food. The Soil Association also looks at important segments like livestock wellbeing, defending human health and preserving the ecology.
Every organic product marketed in the EU must meet the EU Organic Regulation which carries the green leaf logo above. Click here to find out what this regulation certifies.
All Soil Association certified products must also adhere to the EU Organic Regulation. A requirement is that these products must be endorsed by registered accreditation organizations and Soil Association Certification Limited is UK’s main and oldest certification body.
The certification process investigates everyone working in the supply chain in order for the organic production to be certified. Additional conditions are required:
- A yearly inspection of the farms and food production establishments is conducted.
- Once certified, they are given a certificate and trading programme which lists all the crops, livestock or products they are certified to deal in as organic.
- Products brought in from outside the EU must carry an organic certificate and a Certificate of Import which authenticates that they have been produced based on organic criteria which are similar and close to those of the EU’s.
- The Soil Association Inspectors are audited every year so as to ensure that certification practises are followed closely and reliably.
A List of and Ethical and Sustainable Tea Brands
So now that we are familiar with the types of certification for teas, here are 10 sustainable and ethical tea brands that consumers would be interested in.
When Jim Lamancusa was an undergraduate studying one semester of International Business in the former British colony of Hong Kong, he fell in love with what 1.4 billion Chinese drink on a daily basis – tea. And realised his dream of starting his own business in 2017 when he founded Cusa Tea and Coffee.
Cusa is famous for its Cold Brew Process which utilizes room temperature water and pressure to remove all the aroma and essence from the tea leaves, fruits and spices. Then, the cold brew is vacuum dried to create tea crystals that promptly dissolve in water, no matter hot or cold.
Here is Cusa’s process:
In fact, Cusa Tea and Coffee is so confident of the great taste of their products that they are giving away free samples which will be shipped anywhere in the United States. All they ask for is that customers pay a small shipping and handling fee of $3.99-5.99 to cover costs.
You can help the environment by collecting your tea or coffee sticks after consumption and sending them to Cusa for recycling. For every 100 sticks, Cusa will reward you with a $5 voucher to be used for your next purchase.
After 10,000 sticks have been collected, Cusa will deliver them to TerraCycle for recycling.
This is a Social Enterprise which offers a series of free recycling programs in the United States. You can sign up for any number of recycling programs, collect used products and print the free labels provided by TerraCycle to send them for recycling. It is that easy.
Cusa Tea and Coffee joined Climate Collaborative so as to improve on the following 4 concerns:
(i) Food Waste
As Cusa uses the Cold Brew Process, all used tea leaves, fruits and spices are composted. And since you dissolve the tea crystals in water, there is no teabag to dispose of. In addition, Cusa practices a minimal waste office which means staff are urged to bring lunch using reusable and ecologically-friendly packaging and makes available on-site composting for everyone.
Here is a list of the environmentally friendly materials Cusa uses for wrapping and transporting their products:
Shipping Boxes and Fillers
All boxes are made from reusable corrugated cardboard which you can either recycle or put in the recycle storage bin. The fillers are donated from friends, family and business associates who had purchased products that were delivered together with plastic air pillows, paper or bubble wrap. Therefore, Cusa is proud to say that they have never purchased any fillers for their business. In addition, Cusa does not use Styrofoam.
Cards, inserts and bags in shipments
Every card and insert used is made of paper and recyclable. If bags are used, these are compostable bags by ClearBags. And if you receive your products in a clear zip-lock plastic bag, this bag was used before.
ClearBags was founded in 1992 with four staff running a poster business. Now, ClearBags offers 5,000 items and customizes their products according to customer demands.
The sachets are plastic and lined with foil which pose the greatest challenge to Cusa which is still trying to find an ecologically friendly alternative.
Cusa’s retail boxes are manufactured from 100% recycled paper so as to discourage deforestation.
Cusa packs tea in a smart and space-savvy manner, for example, 2,700-10,000 servings of tea can be stored in a one 35-pound box (which is 20″ x 23″ x 23″). Therefore, this reduces the number of boxes, pallets, trucks and energy used in transporting these items.
Note: Climate Collaborative is a project of OSC2 and SFTA. Fiscal Sponsor: The Sustainable Food Lab, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Cusa’s green and black teas are hand-picked from organic farms in Asia. These are smaller ranches which are situated away from main roads and are absent from the usual sources of pollution like construction developments or concentrated human populated areas.
Dilmah Tea was founded by Merrill J Fernandov who was one of the first six Ceylonese in London to be schooled in tea. During this time, Merrill discovered that businesses were diluting teas from other countries with a small proportion of real Ceylon tea but branded this as ‘Ceylon Tea’. Thus, he was more determined than ever to start a company that marketed real Ceylon Tea and so in 1988, he founded Dilmah Tea.
Dilmah Tea Packaging Sustainability
Dilmah has effectively become Carbon Neutral in 2017. According to carbonfootprint.com, Carbon Neutral is also known as Net Zero Carbon where the carbon emissions generated by a business establishment have been equalized by financing an equal amount of carbon savings in another part of the world.
Dilmah has been awarded the Voluntary Cancellation Certificate (for counterbalancing greenhouse gas discharges) by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Greenhouse Gas Verification Statement (ISO 14064-1:2006) by the Sri Lanka Climate Fund of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and the Product Carbon Footprint Certificate also by the Sri Lanka Climate Fund.
Dilmah is also implementing these projects to secure carbon credits:
- Solar Power,
- Biochar (used for composting), and
- Greening Batticaloa (to plant one million cashew trees from 2010 to 2019).
Firepot Normadic Teas’ mission is “to connect tea lovers with tea growers to improve the lives of both” through the following ways:
- Improving Women’s Education
Firepot collaborates with Akilah Institute in Rwanda by donating 1% of sales to Akilah via the One Percent for the Planet organization (more on this below under Projects). Greater educational and business opportunities are provided to the women enrolled at the Institute so that they can move away from long term poverty.
- Direct Sourcing
Since 2001, Firepot has been practising direct sourcing by going to the locations where tea is grown and buying directly from the farmers and producers.
- Supporting Women-owned Businesses
Firepot is proud to create opportunities for female-owned business establishments.
- Promoting Sustainability via Business Practises
Firepot believes that all aspects of their business should be related to improving social, ecological and financial sustainability. This is inherent in using composting packaging, contributing to One Percent for the Planet, etc.
Fireport’s core values are:
Projects undertaken by Firepot
As mentioned above, Fireport donates 1% of its sales to the Akilah Institute.
Founded in January 2010, Akilah Institute is an educational facility of higher learning for women. Graduates are having professions in finance, clean power, eco-tourism, agricultural business, preservation of the environment, technology, and many more. Within six months of graduating, 88% of graduates have found employment and 90% of these graduates are supporting at least one person or family member.
The option of enrolling for online courses which are run by Davis College (Akilah’s co-ed campus) is also available for students who cannot attend a full-time curriculum due to other obligations, geographic distance and other challenges.
Climate Change has an overwhelming effect on our lifestyle, business and financial markets, agricultural systems and homegrown communities and is the most important focus. This can also be seen by ‘Climate’ taking 41% of the total amount donated to 1% for the Planet.
Efficient land supervision including the maintenance and protection of the ecology in addition to land rights for native peoples are key processes for success in land management.
Although water occupies 71% of the earth’s surface, our water supplies are not properly utilized when 780 million people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water.
Supportable food systems are dependent on social, monetary and environmentally friendly partnerships, especially when the world population is ever increasing.
As working and fruitful ecologies rely on the biodiversity of our planet, 1% for the Planet is committed to upholding the variety of flora and fauna so as to support human life.
The ecosystem is being destroyed by human actions in the form of carbon emissions, poisonous contamination of the seas, etc. so in order to create a cleaner future for everyone, it is now time to clean up the ecosystem.
Clipper Teas was started in 1984 by husband and wife team, Mike and Lorraine Brehme who started off their business with selling only two trunks of the best quality Assam tea to local health food stores and tea shops. Now, there are more than 150 Clipper items retailing in more than 50 countries.
Clipper Teas are grown on organic farms which do not use pesticides or herbicides. This slows down global warming as organic soil stores up to five times more carbon dioxide than forests. Organic farms also promote biodiversity and improve the ecology.
Most tea bags contain a bit of plastic called Polypropylene which is used to seal the tea bag paper together. However, in 2018 Clipper Teas became the world’s first tea company to have all their tea bags “sealed with non-GM bio-material made from plant cellulose, known as PLA” and “are completely free of polypropylene – the oil-based plastic that is so damaging to the environment.” In addition, they are compostable.
How to recycle or dispose of Clipper tea packaging
Refer to the infographics below to find out more:
Clipper achieved the role of UK’s first Fairtrade tea company in 1994 and 25 years later, it is the planet’s biggest Fairtrade tea brand. In the past 25 years, it has also supplied more than £4m in Fairtrade premiums.
Aubrey and Jeremy Lopatin founded Arbor Teas in 2004 which specialises in organic tea. It is a family-owned business located in Ann Arbor, Michigan (hence the name Arbor Teas).
Arbor Teas’ Social Responsibilities
a) Fair Trade
Arbor’s Fair Trade teas come from co-operatives as well as large farms. Fair Trade opens up international markets to farmers, growers and producers who might otherwise have no access at all. It also ensures that a fair price is paid for teas. This price is at least the customary price or above it. In addition, wages are paid according to acceptable minimums, if not surpassing them.
The farmers, growers, producers and workers are permitted to join any trade union they so desire while working in a secure environment. Last but not least, Fair Trade Premiums are put back into the community to finance communal projects like schools, housing, and other developments that benefit the population.
Here are the areas in which Arbor Teas is involved:
Sustainability at the Source
- Natural Agricultural Practices
- Cultivating High Yielding Crops with Lesser Water Demands
- Environmental Change
- Local Sourcing System
- Using Sea Transport to ship teas and herbs to abroad
- Using Land Transport for local shipments
- Counterbalance Carbon Releases with Carbon Fund
- Utilising a Packing Facility that is powered by the sun
- “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Materials”
- Recycle Bio-Waste through composting
- Is a Green Currents Participant (green current or green electricity is produced from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro)
- Nominal Printing
- Packing materials allows consumers to practise composting in their garden
- Using Cellulose Substances obtained from Controlled Forests
- Employing more than 90% Recyclable Raw Materials
- Utilising Light Weight Resources that need a lower level of energy involvement
- Absence of Tea Bags
- Using USPS and UPS for Local Transportation
- Does not use air transport
- Compensate Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Carbon Fund
- Tapping on used packaging as shipping material
- Reprocess Despatching Materials
- Selecting Tea-Saving Substitutes
- Promote requiring less water and power to make tea
- Putting used tea leaves and wrapping into compost
- Endorsing Tea Drinking as a Power-Efficient Brew
- Always looking for cost-saving and effective ways for the business
Front of Package
The packaging material is made from a cellulose film originating from wood pulp obtained from sustainably grown trees. The material decomposes quickly even in homebased compost piles.
Labels are made from hemp or sugar cane fibre. The latter is gathered from sugar cane waste so that it does not end up in landfills and is made into paper labels instead. This is then mixed with a ground-breaking bonding agent which is vegan and meets the prerequisites of DIN CERTCO and BPI, and lastly complies with ASTM D6868.
About DIN CERTCO, BPI and ASTM D6868
DIN CERTCO is a certifying body for business enterprises interested in having their products verified for specific conformity benchmarks. The intention is to prove to consumers the quality, safety, and dependability of the merchandise.
BPI is also a certification body and has been working in conjunction with DIN CERTCO since 1 December 2017 with the latter providing administrative services for the technical assessments under the BPI accreditation scheme.
ASTM D6868 is a specific certification standard for labels used on end-products that have plastics and polymers as coverings or additives with paper and other compounds intended to be compostable in municipal and industrial amenities.
Back of Package
This carries a reminder to move your tea to a permanent receptacle and compost the packaging.
All Arbor teas are certified organic by the USDA National Organic Program.
Eco-Friendly Brewing Tips
I was impressed by Arbor Teas’ eco-friendly brewing tips which highlight ways to conserve water and electricity:
- Use tap water or spring water that is sourced locally to reduce the carbon footprint which is created by the distance that water needs to travel before reaching you. If you have an arrangement to have drinking water delivered to you in bottles, keep refilling as this will reduce the number of bottles that will end up in landfills.
- Only boil as much water as needed for your cup of tea. This will reduce your electricity and water bills.
- If you use a stove to boil water, make sure that your kettle has a flat bottom so that as much heat used is conducted to the kettle to heat it up. Similarly, if you drink tea with your meal, you can use the same stove to heat up your kettle after cooking your meal to make use of residual heat that is already present in your stove.
d) Testing Japanese Teas for Radiation
Arbor Teas has been testing its Japanese teas for radiation since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 although most of these teas are grown at least 200 to 300 kilometres south of the radiation zone. In addition, most of the Japanese Teas is sourced from the Kagoshima Prefecture which is on the island of Kyushu and is situated thousands of kilometres away from Fukushima (see map below showing Fukushima in red and Kyushu in dark blue).
Brother and sister-team, Ahmed Rahim and Reem Hassani founded Numi in 1999. The company was named “after the steeped dried desert lime they drank in their early childhood in Baghdad, Iraq. The drink symbolizes hospitality and community (numi means “citrus” in Arabic).”
Numi buys Fair Trade CertifiedTM tea where farmers, through voting, have a say in how to use the Fair Trade Premiums in their own communities. Todate, Numi has donated in excess of $1 million for Fair Trade Premiums.
This shows that Numi is committed to obtaining teas from farms which have good labour practices. This certification is appraised every year by a third-party audit agency which requires tea farmers to be certified organic and that workers are not exposed to harmful chemicals like pesticides. Tea companies are urged to create direct business collaborations where they have a say in the expansion of their supply chain.
Socially accountable businesses have been collaborating with FLA since 1999 to combat exploitative employment practises through education and training of tea farmers and workers, and regular checks on tea farms.
FLA also holds companies responsible for executing FLA’s Code of Conduct throughout their supply chains. In addition, external appraisals are conducted and opportunities are created for businesses and tea farmers and workers to discuss and achieve workable answers to employment issues.
In 2006, Numi became one of the first thirty businesses to be endorsed as a B Corporation. A certified B Corporation generates gains for shareholders, workers, the public and the ecology and is legitimately compelled to think through the results of their decisions on them. It is not concerned with profit only but equates business goals with revenue.
Numi’s tea bag wrappers are manufactured from sustainable ingredients which are FSC® certified paper coated with Non-GMO PLA from sugar cane and metalized eucalyptus guaranteeing a total decomposition without any toxicity to the ecosystem.
About FSC® certified paper and Non-GMO PLA
FSC® certified paper
According to treehugger.com, FSC® certified paper is paper which has been collected from sustainably-grown forests and consists of virgin tree fibers.
FSC or the Forest Stewardship Council is a worldwide forest certification agency that provides Forest Management Certification and Chain of Custody Certification. In short, the former is for people or businesses who own or manage forests while the latter certifies materials and products originating from forests to the consumers where checks are made at every phase of production.
Non-GMO means Non-Genetically Modified Organisms and PLA is Polylactic Acid which is a polymer made from renewable resources. When used in combination, composting is 100% ensured without endangering the environment.
Numi is Climate Neutral Certified which means that they calculate, counteract and decrease their yearly greenhouse emissions trail.
This certification is offered by Climate Neutral which promotes and highlights to consumers products manufactured by businesses which offset and reduce all their carbon emissions.
Carbonfund.org supports the following three kinds of carbon reducing projects:
These projects decrease current energy consumption while delivering the most cost efficient tactics to slash emissions and conserve money.
By preserving forests, harmful Carbon Dioxide is absorbed by trees to produce Oxygen.
This is to attract investments in the use of sustainable energy like wind, solar, hydro, etc. to create a cleaner and greener future.
This collaborative venture was co-founded by Numi and OSC with the intention of eradicating petroleum-based plastics and replacing them with appropriate packaging substances made from sustainable materials.
The Climate Collaborative was founded by Jessica Rolph and Lara Dickinson and is based on the conviction that by operating in a united manner, business leaders can overturn the effects of climate change.
Founded by Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell, the company was officially named Pukka Herbs at the end of 2001 (Pukka means authentic in Hindi). However, it was acquired by Unilever on 7 September 2017. Kevin Havelock, Unilever’s President for its Refreshment group said that Pukka Herbs’ robust ethics and strong social commitment are parallel to Unilever’s distinct development model.
All Pukka products are 100% certified organic to help reduce the effects of climate change, promote biodiversity by reducing the harm done to the environment and to nurture the soil. The tea farmers do not use pesticides or any genetically-modified ingredients.
This means growing crops in an environmentally-manageable and natural way to protect the ecology, community, and flora and fauna. This is ideal as organic farms maintain 50% more wildlife than non-organic ones.
Through the Pukka Life Impact Fund, communal projects and education sessions are carried out for farmers in disadvantaged communities. Projects include water-efficient farming methods in India, collecting rainwater in the UK, and constructing compost tubs in India. You can download Pukka’s 2019 Sustainability Report here.
Pukka has been donating 1% of sales since 2016 to support ecological and communal initiatives in needy communities.
Here are four areas that Pukka is focusing on:
- Fair Premiums
As Pukka is part of these two certifications: Fair For Life and FairWild, premiums paid by Pukka go to farmers, workers, growers and suppliers who provide the ingredients that make up Pukka teas. The premiums will be used on communal projects that will improve the welfare of these people.
- Certification Fees
These fees are paid to certifying agencies which in turn use the money for projects that will safeguard the ecology.
This is a UK-registered charity organization promoting tropical reforestation to business enterprises as well as individuals. Currently, TreeSisters has sponsored the planting of more than 15 million trees in India, Kenya, Madagascar, Brazil, Mozambique, West Papua, Borneo, Cameroon, and Nepal. Eleven communal ventures have produced employment for the local population, created important habitat for threatened animal groups like the lemur, jaguar and orangutan as well as reduced the effects of climate change by cooling the planet.
- Support for charitable work in Pukka’s Largest Markets
These projects are conducted by charities in countries all over the world like supporting the Soil Association and Eden Project in the United Kingdom, the Pollinators in the Netherlands, Natuurpunt and Natagora in Belgium and the Soul Fire Farm in the United States.
This means that everyone involved in the provision of tea and tea-related ingredients in the supply chain are managed fairly and impartially. While some verifying agencies only check on the certified farmers and workers on the farm, Fair For Life ensures that as long as you are involved in the business, you are paid a decent remuneration and work in a safe environment.
Since Fair For Life provides opportunities to trade with developed and developing countries, all its members are protected under the same system no matter where they come from. In addition, this denotes that more ethical and equally traded products can be obtained for businesses around the world.
Pukka’s own Fair For Life score and those of its suppliers can be seen on the Fair For Life website.
As some of the flowers and herbs used by Pukka are harvested in the wild, globally recognized guidelines must be practised to ensure that these wild plants are not over collected and there is no loss of habitation. Hence, the FairWild Foundation was created to implement such directives and verification programs for traders participating in the business of wild plant components.
For a business to be certified a B Corporation, profit is not the only yardstick as auditors also look at the sustainability and ethical sides of the business. As a requirement, Pukka is audited every three years based on the B Impact Assessment where the impact of business decisions is evaluated on the company’s staff, clients, the society at large and the ecology.
The B Impact Assessment consists of three steps:
Step 1: Assessment
This section requires companies to answer a series of questions with regards to creating a business that is better for the staff, community and the environment. To get a quick outline, it takes about half an hour to complete this portion whereas to obtain a full report, it would require two to three hours.
Step 2: Compare
Here your answers are evaluated by comparing the answers given by other businesses which have completed the B Impact Assessment. Your answers will be compiled into two segments: Quick Snapshot and Full Report. The former shows you where you are doing well and areas in which you could do better. The latter provides a more comprehensive look at how your answers score on numerous impact issues.
Step 3: Improvement Plan
A personalized development plan is created for your company showing how you could carry out the necessary requirements.
Pukka achieved 100% carbon emissions offset in 2019 which means that all greenhouse releases produced from cultivating the tea plants to transporting and packing the tea leaves till the products reach the consumers have been neutralised.
According to Carbon Trust, a Carbon Neutral Footprint happens when “the sum of the greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) produced is offset by natural carbon sinks and/or carbon credits.”
PAS 2060 is the only globally-accepted certification which is conferred by Carbon Trust. This certification puts into place the conditions for measuring, diminishing and counterbalancing greenhouse gas discharges for businesses, merchandises and events.
This is the Carbon Neutral Logo conferred by Carbon Trust to indicate that establishments, products and events are carbon neutral.
Tetley was founded by brothers, Joseph and Edward Tetley, who were selling salt but decided to add tea to their product line in 1837. As of July 2015, Tetley had used 41,000 tonnes of tea per year (780 tonnes per week) in their factory in England with about 262 million tea bags being produced a week based on a 5-day work week.
As Tetley was interested in rising the welfare of tea growers worldwide, it became one of the partners who founded the Ethical Tea Partnership.
This is a non-profit organization created to handle systemic problems associated with farmers, workers, growers, producers and suppliers in the tea industry. In addition to contributions from its members, ETP also receives global financing from public and private sectors. The United Nation’s Development Goals play a large part in determining ETP’s selection of communal projects in tea-growing areas which span Africa and Asia. Besides working to ensure that tea farmers are paid an equitable amount for their produce, ETP also labours to encourage women to be more self-sufficient, develop wellbeing and nourishment in tea cultivating societies and assists them in mitigating the effects of climate change.
i) Changing Lives
ii) Better Incomes
Besides ensuring that producers in needy tea regions are remunerated a living wage and living income, ETP has created the Malawi Tea 2020 partnership to make sure that all staff in Malawi enjoy better gains and remuneration.
iii) Empowering Women
ETP has partnered with UNICEF on the Improving Lives Programme to provide assistance to females in Assam, India to decrease child marital practises, dangerous resettlement, ensuring girls remain in school and teaching them the skills and knowledge so as to diminish the danger of aggression, ill-treatment and manipulation. This programme has impacted 250,000 Assam inhabitants as well as 25% of tea growing properties in Assam.
iv) Climate and Environment
ETP helps tea farmers to lower their carbon footprint and advance their ecological robustness and be more resistant to climate change. One of their well-known communal projects is increasing energy proficiency in tea farms in Kenya which have a labour force of three million in the industry.
Collaborating with the Rainforest Alliance allows Tetley to advise tea growers on sustainable practices that will protect the environment and allow biodiversity to flourish.
The Republic of Tea was founded on 1 May 1992 by Mel Ziegler, Patricia Ziegler and Bill Rosenzweig. The Zieglers were no strangers to entrepreneurship as they had formerly created Banana Republic which was sold to Gap in 1983.
Twenty-one varieties of teas which were not accessible to the American public were launched during its first year of operations which generated a huge demand in tea throughout the United States.
The founders also published a book called ‘The Republic of Tea: Letters to a Young Entrepreneur’ which influenced Ron Rubin who later purchased the business in 1994.
ETP and The Republic of Tea launched the Women of Tea Programme in January 2018 to improve nutrition, diet, food preparation, health and cleanliness and domestic financing among the tea communities in Sri Lanka.
USDA and Quality Assurance International have certified a number of TRoT’s teas as Organic because the teas and herbs are cultivated without using pesticides, herbicides and man-made chemicals.
This means that TRoT’s teas and herbs are grown free from Genetically Modified Organisms.
TransFair USA, which is the only certifying agency in the United States for Fair Trade merchandises, verifies TRoT’s products as Fair Trade Certified teas. TransFair USA changed its name to Fair Trade USA on 1 October 2010.
In August 2020, The Republic of Tea showcased “a collection of new chai tea blends using organic tea leaves harvested from Certified Elephant Friendly tea gardens. The gardens are committed to protecting Asian elephants and their habitats”. Here, the gentle giants are permitted to roam free without fear of being injured by electric barriers, irrigation trenches, human encounters or other perils. And this makes TRoT the first tea company in the world to sell Certified Elephant Friendly teas.
f) Demeter USA
This is a non-profit establishment that focuses on teaching farmers how to cultivate crops successfully by following Biodynamic® practices and principles with the intention to “heal the planet through agriculture”. In order for a business to use the Demeter logo, it needs to be audited every year.
Click here to find out more about The Demeter Biodynamic® Farm and Processing Standards.
This is a family-owned business located in Brunswick, Maine, whose founders fell in love with tea when they visited China over twenty-five years ago.
Little Red Cup’s Certifications
One hundred percent of Little Red Cup’s teas are cultivated organically in Southern China without any chemicals, pesticides or herbicides and they have been verified by three international and independent certifying agencies.
Marketing Fair Trade certified teas makes the Little Red Cup a viable and renewable business. In addition to being registered with Fair Trade USA, the establishments that Little Red Cup partners with are also endorsed by them. Hence, this ensures that the tea farmers are paid a fair remuneration so that their living standards can be raised.
The use of sustainable packaging is in the form of food-safe tea tins without any plastic liners to preserve tea freshness. This also allows consumers to refill the tins when the tea is finished, thus, preventing the tins from ending up in landfills.
Lipton Tea (part of Unilever) is arguably one of the most well-known tea brands in the world. It has been acquiring tea leaves from Rainforest Alliance certified farms since 2007. And by 2020, a hundred percent of tea leaves (including loose tea) are sustainably sourced.
The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) implements Unilever’s greenhouse gas, water and waste reduction objectives with the intention to switch to a zero-carbon business. Specific goals are also set for the global offices by region, division, locality and volume of production.
Sustainable Living Plan
Since 2010, Unilever has produced the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan 2010 to 2020 which focuses on nine target areas:
a) Health and Hygiene (page 8)
Unilever has assisted in excess of 1.3 billion people by the end of 2020 by focusing on face-to-face undertakings (more than 625 million) and harnessing the power of television advertisements (over 715 million).
b) Nutrition (page 11)
To help people attain a healthier diet, Unilever has based their Highest Nutritional Standards on dietary parameters which are acknowledged worldwide. Sixty-one percent of Unilever’s products have met the Highest Nutritional Standards by end of 2020.
c) Greenhouse Gases (page 15)
By 2020, Unilever has decreased their greenhouse emissions per consumer by about 10% as compared to the year 2010 with the intention of halving this by 2030. This would be achieved by reducing carbon discharges from manufacturing, transportation and refrigeration of raw materials and finished products, diminishing energy consumption in Unilever offices, reducing employee travel and managing the washing of clothes by consumers using Unilever products.
d) Water (page 18)
Unilever has targeted to reduce water usage for consumer use of their products by half by the year 2020 and is still working towards meeting this goal. The main reason is that the range of Unilever products has increased which utilize a greater than normal water footprint, namely, when customers clean themselves and wash their clothes with Unilever products.
e) Waste and Packaging (page 20)
Unilever’s buyer wastage footprint has been decreased by 34% since 2010 by cutting down on excess in their own processes and utilizing unconventional packing designs which obey the ‘less plastic, better plastic, no plastic’ guidelines.
f) Sustainable Sourcing (page 24)
By the end of 2020, Unilever has sustainably sourced 67% of their agricultural raw materials by concentrating on twelve important crops which are vital to their products and where Unilever has the highest influence on their agricultural segments. These sectors are palm oil, paper and board, soy, sugar, tea, dairy, rapeseed, cereals, vegetables, cocoa, herbal infusions and vanilla.
g) Fairness in the Workplace (page 30)
Unilever implemented a series of policies based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights across all functions in 2020 and in the same year, 83% of the procurement budget were applied to traders which meet the compulsory obligations of Unilever’s Responsible Sourcing Policy.
h) Opportunities for Women (page 33)
Unilever accomplished gender equilibrium in management in 2019 and upheld the ratio of female managers at 50% in the year 2020. This process is based on valuing women’s rights and providing them with the know-how and opportunities to thrive.
i) Inclusive Business (page 36)
Unilever has helped about 832,000 small-range farmers and 1.83 million minor retailers to gain entry to programmes to advance their cultivation techniques or boost their earnings.
Last Word on Sustainable Tea
Although businesses started operations with the intention of only making a profit, from the customers’ point of view, meeting the bottom line is not enough. Consumers expect businesses to do more in the form of supporting social, environmental and legal objectives.
However, from the business point of view, obtaining certification for a specific type of tea may be an expensive venture and not all tea sellers can afford it. Still, the certification process is only the beginning as the benefits far outweigh the costs.
In time to come, consumers will become more appreciative and show their support for these brands through repeat purchases and conversions of new sales by recommendations from existing customers.