The group, known as Tea 2030, hopes to identify crucial challenges facing the sector to 2030 and develop innovative solutions to overcome these obstacles.

According to the coalition, tea faces a number of these challenges involving climate change, increased demand for energy and water and competition for land use.

The Tea 2030 project will be steered by Tata Global Beverages, Unilever, Yorkshire Tea, Finlays, the Ethical Tea Partnership, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International.

It will be facilitated and managed by sustainability organisation Forum for the Future and the International Tea Committee will also be engaged with the initiative.

Forum for the Future deputy chief executive Dr Sally Uren said: “Through our past projects in sectors as diverse as tourism and shipping, we have seen how exploration of different possible futures can be a powerful way of generating a shared understanding of sustainability issues throughout entire value chains.

“In turn, this shared understanding can generate new solutions to systemic problems that are just too big for one organisation to tackle alone. We have high hopes that Tea 2030 will deliver practical action that will secure a sustainable and successful future for the global tea industry”.

According to the group, competition and climate change require united action as they could result in tea plantations being converted to other uses. For example, between 2005 and 2010, 13,000 hectares of land in Indonesia were converted from tea to other purposes such as growing rubber, palm oil and fruit.

In addition, some experts are concerned that tea could be traded in the same way as other commodities by 2030 and this could increase speculation – leading to the volatility seen in other markets in the past few years.

Finlays group sustainable business manager Michael Pennant-Jones said: “Tea is one of those products that people have great emotional and social attachment to.

This unique project bodes well for a sustainable future at a crucial time for a tea industry that is facing many economic, environmental and social challenges.”

Conor McGlone

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