After a four year hiatus, yesterday (21 June 2022), we hosted TEAM UP 2022, the Sustainable Solutions conference with IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative at the Royal Institute of British Architects in central London and virtually.
The event brought all the key players together to discuss and debate the biggest issues and challenges the tea sector faces, and for us all (audience included) to come together to think about action-orientated sector wide solutions to protect the future of our beloved cup of tea.
We explored the environmental impact on tea supply chains and how changing weather patterns are having a detrimental effect on smallholder farmers. We debated why tea is such a low commodity and how can we improve livelihoods for the tea workers and farmers, and we discussed the huge challenges we face when we look at tackling Gender-based violence on the ground in tea growing regions.
We heard from the big voices within the tea industry and beyond. Here we share a round-up of some of the key highlights from the day.
Our Executive Director, Jenny Costelloe kicked off the day asking the big question: Where are we coming from; and where do we want to go next?
Jenny asked us to rethink the way we are doing things and said now is the time for new ways of thinking and transformation, quoting Einstein "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them." There was a strong call to action for all stakeholder groups including tea packers to be more transparent with their data and to pay a higher price for tea leaves, for governments to do more and to take action against unethical producers and for us to find new ways to engage with the private sector.
Dr. Sharon Hall, Chief Executive at UK Tea & Infusions Association facilitated the discussion and talked about the shift in behaviour change of consumers wanting to know more about brands that are embracing and showcasing their green credentials.
We then welcomed our Environment & Climate Lead, Rachel Cracknell to the stage. Rachel highlighted that unfortunately changing weather will continue to cause huge issues for the poorest in tea supply chains, the tea pickers and workers. Rachel said: ‘We need clear targets to reach net-zero and we need to help organisations to set science based targets & have a unified roadmap to get there.” Priya B, Head of Sustainability at Tata Consumer Products also highlighted the importance of measurement when it comes to reducing emissions when finding the ‘hotspots’ throughout the value chain. Alice Allan, Team leader at the FCDO Work & Opportunities for Women Programme talked us through new research findings which look at the direct correlation of climate change on women and girls and unfortunately the findings were bleak, revealing women and young girls are at the biggest risk. Sudi Biko Matara, CEO of the Kenya Development Agency Foundation asked for there to be more investment as new initiatives to help farmers adapt to fluctuating weather patterns will be costly and timely.
This session was hard-hitting right from the start. We heard from three voices from across the ground in Malawi, Kenya and Sri Lanka, highlighting the prevalence of GBV across all three countries. Jane Nyambura, Stakeholder & Partnership Manager for ETP talked us through a behaviour change initiative working directly with taxi drivers (main form of transport to take women and girls to tea estates) to educate, debunk myths around GBV and to create ‘ male equality champions’. Jane also went on to explain the initiative showing strong results highlighting that GBV can only be addressed by working directly with men and boys especially those that are often the perpetrators.
Winfridah Moraa Nyakwara, Unilever Senior Social Sustainability Manager for Africa and South Asia talked us through their partnership with UN Women and spoke about how the Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces is a framework to clearly help tea producers with a step by step guide to keep women safe on tea estates. Amarpal Takk, Group General Counsel & Company secretary, Camellia Group also talked about the importance of using a gender lens and using independent monitoring to track and put in effective preventing measures to truly protect women and girls.
Paul Schoenmakers, Head of Impact at Tony’s Chocolonely talked us through their business model which puts people first with their mission to make chocolate 100% slave free. They source cocoa directly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where 1.56 million children are working under illegal conditions. That’s why they have 5 sourcing principles in coca, which Paul said easily could apply to the tea sector. We just need someone to take the first step! Paul gave a clear message to the audience saying “All companies should be a force for good and put people first.”
The debate then kicked off with Giles Bolton, Responsible Sourcing Director at Tesco, and Andy Brown, Managing Director from Taylor’s of Harrogate talking about the importance of collective action and shared common targets across the sector to address the living wage gap. There was also much discussion about changing the narrative around tea so that consumers can understand its true worth and pay a higher price. Zbigniew Lewicki, Chief R&D and Sustainability Officer at ekaterra added that building long-term relationships with suppliers is crucial to take responsibility for welfare and improve overall livelihoods for tea workers.
The day closed with Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of Oxfam GB saying our beloved drink is worth paying more for and believes that consumers are now ready to pay more, wanting to know more about the journey of tea leaf to tea cup. Danny gave a strong call to action for us all to get serious about improving living wage and income and to address gender equality and be held accountable.