Twinings brews up new human rights framework in CSR drive

British tea brand Twinings has launched a pioneering global sustainability framework as part of a mission to improve the lives of half a million people in the global tea supply chain by 2020.

The Twinings Community Needs Assessment (TCNA) will evaluate human rights risks to improve working conditions in all tea estates through 2017 in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The framework will build upon existing third party audits and cross-sector partnerships to engage directly with communities to address issues like reproductive health and income diversification.

The announcement coincided with today’s (20 February) release of Twinings’ social impact report, which outlines the latest results from the company’s Sourced with Care sustainability programme, focussed on areas such as water and sanitation, children rights and livelihoods.

According to the report, more than 134,000 people have been benefited from the Sourced with Care scheme, while 75% of the tea gardens that Twinings source from are sustainably certified.

Twinings chief executive Bob Tavener said: “Our aim is to create a “virtuous circle”. As the social impact report shows, our interventions make a real difference to people’s lives, but our assessment also draws attention to remaining issues and challenges.

“In this way Sourced with Care encourages other tea gardens to make improvements and increases demand for better social conditions from other tea buyers, leading to change at a wider scale.”

‘Lead the pack’

Twinings will work with partners such local governments and organisations including UNICEF and WaterAid to find solutions at a grassroots level. The comprehensive CSR programme pledges to reach people throughout the global tea supply chain: from women working on tea plantations in Kenya, to smallholder farmers in China and children living on tea gardens in Northern India.

“We hope to lead the pack and challenge other tea brands as well as ourselves to introduce new initiatives which complement established industry-wide programmes,” Tavener said. “That’s why we are partnering with NGOs, supply chain partners, companies, governments, industry associations and local communities to help tackle the broader, structural challenges affecting the tea sector.

“I am really optimistic that we will be able to improve livelihoods, life opportunities and living standards. Everyone from the tea-picker right the way through to the tea drinker knows that this is the right thing to do.”

Tea junction

The initiative reflects a growing realisation among major tea brands that only a thriving and sustainable sector can deliver long-term impact for workers and smallholders. Twinings has already formed a multi-stakeholder coalition alongside the likes of Tesco, Marks & Spencer (M&S), and Unilever which aims to achieve a competitive Malawian tea sector where workers earn a living wage and smallholders earn a living income by 2020.

In 2013, leading businesses and organisations involved in the tea industry joined forces in the Tea 2030 partnership in a further attempt to ensure its future is sustainable. Unilever has also previously worked with non-profit organisation Forum for the Future on a project to develop natural tea varieties and secure international tea supply for the future – by 2020, the FMCG firm is aiming to sustainably source 100% of its tea, including loose tea.

Meanwhile, supermarket group Tesco is leading a partnership to support children in tea-growing communities who may be vulnerable to trafficking and abuse.

George Ogleby

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