ETP Meeting on Tea Sustainability

On May 10th & 11th 2010, the Ethical tea Partnership held a two day Strategic Members Meeting at the Docklands Museum (London), a former warehouse with strong associations with the tea trade. Delegates with a range of organisational responsibilities (Tea Buyers, CSR, Marketing and Communications, Finance and Directors) came together for two days’ worth of seminars, workshops and discussions to review the past 12 months and agree future priorities.

The meeting also provided delegates with the opportunity to hear first hand from ETP’s five Regional Managers about the reality of helping tea producers to improve their social and environmental performance, and to discuss key issues relating to monitoring, certification and capacity building with ETP staff and partners. The two-days highlighted how much ETP had evolved over the last twelve months, with ETP now operating:

  • a much more effective monitoring scheme, with greater engagement from producers
  • collaborative relationships with key certification programmes, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified
  • capacity building programmes to support improvement across all key regions

ETP’s capacity building now covers a range of key issues in the ETP standard. Such projects include reducing discrimination and sexual harassment, addressing child labour, raising health and safety through a range of workshops, education on the safe handling of agrochemicals, and minimising land conflicts between smallholders and wildlife.

A highlight of the meeting was CARE International’s presentation about the difference that the on-going CARE-ETP partnership is making in Sri Lanka. Detailed work with management and workers has led to considerable improvements in labour relations, increased productivity, and addressing various social issues, such as progression opportunities for women and programmes aimed at tackling harassment and alcohol abuse.

While good progress is being made in the global tea sector, significant long-term challenges still remain. To help provide members with knowledge and insight from ethical, environmental and social experts, ETP invited a range of external experts to discuss the critical issues holding back the sustainability of the tea sector and ways in which ETP could make a difference.

Martin Cooke, Deputy Director of the Ethical Trading Initiative led a thought- provoking session on ‘Ethical Trading – Now and in the Future’. Martin focused on a number of key issues which resonated strongly with the changes that ETP has been making over the last few years, for example citing the fact that: “Strategies to promote better working conditions in the supply base will rely less on auditing of suppliers and more on building their capacity to demonstrate improvements through rewarding good employment practices, training and tools and collaborative industry-wide approaches.”

He was also very positive about the way that ETP is working with other organisations such as the certification programmes to reduce duplication and highlighted the fact that from ETI’s perspective “The main growth will be in consumers’ expectations of brands rather than their demand for labelled product.”

Climate change specialists (Ian Watt, Forum for the Future; Alexa Morrison, Planvivo Foundation; Subhendu Biswas and Partha Chaudhuri, First Climate, India) gave an overview of climate change and the likely impacts on tea producing regions and the tea industry. Through ETP funding, First Climate has been able to demonstrate considerable potential for both greenhouse gas reductions and bottom-line improvements through changes in energy management on tea estates. ETP’s new public-private-partnership with the German development agency GTZ, will enable detailed work to be carried out in Kenya, focusing on assisting producers to adapt to climate change.

The second day of the conference focused on how ETP should develop to ensure it had the greatest possible impact in the sector. Sessions were held on how ETP can bring in new partners and funding for work in the tea sector and on the priorities for the next three years.

The overall success of the meeting was summed up nicely by one of ETP’s members, “Thank you to you and your team for organising such a thorough, interesting and thought provoking two days. It was great to get everyone together again to look back at the excellent work of the past year and discuss our future direction,” Ian Brabbin, Head of Tea, Taylors of Harrogate.

For Sarah Roberts, ETP’s Executive Director, it was a key event, “This was the first strategic meeting since I took over. The past year seems to have flown by and it was tremendously helpful to review all the developments of the last twelve months in a structured way. The combination of our members, staff and guests enabled some very insightful discussions which provides me with a very clear basis on which to plan ETP’s development over the next three years.”