British tea brand Twinings has set out plans to improve the lives of people in the global tea supply chain.
The scheme, known as The Community Needs Assessment (TCNA), sets out to identify human rights risks and community needs in the supply chain and work with NGOs and local government to drive improvements at grassroots level.
The move follows a pilot project on tea estates in Northern India, which involved conducting focus groups with tea pickers and their families to assess living conditions.
The results, published in the firm's Social Impact Report, found many of the families living on tea gardens not only lacked access to basic services such as clean water and adequate sanitation facilities, but also lacked knowledge about good hygiene practices.
As a result Twinings launched an action plan with the local community and tea garden management to develop water, sanitation and hygiene programmes across several tea estates in the region.
TCNA is part of Twinings broader sustainability programme, Sourced with Care, which aims to improve the lives of half a million people in communities where it sources its products by 2020. This involves improving livelihoods, life opportunities and living standards.
Twinings, owned by Associated British Foods, sources their tea from gardens in China, India, Kenya, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Argentina and Indonesia, has manufacturing sites in the UK, Poland, India and China and sells in 117 countries.
According to global information company Nielsen, the British brand sold 4.6m kg of tea in 2016 and sold 358m servings of its top selling English Breakfast range.
Twinings CEO Bob Taverner said he was optimistic TCNA would encourage other brands to make similar changes.
“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,” he 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.”
Twinings also revealed it would build upon existing third-party audits and cross-sector partnerships to engage directly with communities to address issues like reproductive health and income diversification in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
This latest announcement is part of wider moves among major tea brands to deliver long-term improvements for workers and smallholders.
Twinings has formed a multi-stakeholder coalition to achieve a competitive Malawian tea sector, where workers earn a living wage and smallholders earn a living income by 2020.