The Anglo-Dutch group has pledged that by 2020 all of its agricultural raw materials will be produced using sustainable crop practices, as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. 

This new research, conducted in partnership with the inter-governmental organisation CABI, follows on from Unilever’s recently updated guidance document which specifically sets out the consumer goods firm’s commitment to raising standards in tea production by reducing or eliminating pesticides in tea growing, in partnership with suppliers and farmers.

“We believe that results of this Unilever funded research will provide a firm foundation for the industry, Government and tea growers to define a clear roadmap for the short and medium-term,” said a company spokesperson. “The data and recommendations, which will be made public, will also guide Indian Industry and Unilever’s next steps.”

In the coming weeks, CABI will work in co-operation with the Tea Board of India, the Tea Research Institutes and key industry partners to review existing practices of crop protection and the limitations of current techniques in India.

Researchers will then design protocols for pilot field-trials aimed at investigating novel approaches for biological, non-pesticide management of pests aiming at a holistic rejuvenation of the eco-system. These field-trials will be run in partnership with the Tea Board and tea growers on selected estates and will commence during the next growing season.

Sustainable future

With anticipated changes in the climate of the world’s key tea-producing regions, Unilever – which owns the global Lipton tea brand – also wants to arrest any decline in tea crop diversity that could limit the crop’s ability to withstand drought, disease and pests.

As reported by edie in May, the group launched a new project to develop natural tea varieties and secure international tea supply for the future. By 2015, Unilever aims to have the tea in all Lipton tea bags sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified estates. And by 2020, 100% of Unilever’s tea, including loose tea, will be sustainably sourced.

This is the latest in a line of initiatives and programmes Unilever has launched to improve its sustainability and reduce environmental impact. So far this year, the firm has created the first soap bar using sustainable Algal Oils; announced that more than three-quarters of its global factory network no longer sends non-hazardous waste to landfill; and halved the size of its male deodorant brands to minimise their impact on the environment.


Luke Nicholls

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