Just days after WWF and ISEAL released a new report highlighting the importance of aligning sustainability standards with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), tea brand Twinings announced a new framework designed to improve the lives of tea workers in its supply chain.
Twinings Community Needs Assessment (TCNA) was developed with independent experts such as UNICEF to evaluate human rights risks and the needs of specific communities in support of the SDGs. This marks the first time that a process of this kind will be used within the tea industry.
The company will continue to use third party audits and industry bodies to improve working conditions on tea estates, but the TCNA goes a step further, taking a more holistic approach to the well-being of tea communities, working to ensure that they are happy, thriving and sustainable.
The new assessment framework is being rolled out globally as a part of Twining’s broader sustainability program Sourced with Care. The assessment enables Twinings to identify priorities and align interventions with the needs of local communities. The company then works with its partners, which include local government and NGOs, to find solutions and drive change at a grassroots level.
As outlined in Twining’s Social Impact Report, Sourced with Care sets the ambitious goal to improve the lives of half a million people in communities where Twinings sources products by 2020. The improvements will be made in three key areas: livelihoods, life opportunities and living standards, which also relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The comprehensive program will reach people through the global tea supply chain: from women working on tea plantations in Kenya to smallholder farms in China and children living on tea gardens in Northern India.
Beyond ensuring that tea gardens have the required certifications and meet basic standards, Twinings will also engage directly with communities to address issues like reproductive health and income diversification.
Twinings recently piloted the CAN on tea estates in Northern India. The regional Ethical Sourcing Manager conducted several focus groups with tea pickers and their families to assess conditions and identify priorities. The new assessment process ensures that communities themselves participate in the evaluation, allowing their voices to be heard directly. It was the first time they had ever been given the opportunity to take part in such a detailed process.
The initial findings reveal that many of the families living on tea gardens lack access to basic services such as clean water and adequate sanitation facilities. These are normally provided by tea garden management, but an increase in the number of people means they have not been able to meet the growing demand.
The process also revealed that the problems are compounded by a lack of knowledge about good hygiene practices, like water purification.
As a next step, Twinings is engaging local community and tea garden management in a joint action plan to develop a water, sanitation and hygiene program across several tea estates in the region.
“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,” said Bob Tavener, CEO, Twinings.
“We hope to lead the pack and challenge other tea brands, as well as ourselves, to introduce new initiatives which complement established industry-wide programs. 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,” Tavener added. “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.”