As one of the largest producers and consumers of tea, India is at the centre of the global tea industry. Our nation produces over a fifth of the world’s tea and Indian tea is crucial to most tea blends. Two million people work in the Indian tea industry – the majority on tea estates.
Assam is a key tea growing region in the North East of India, and nearly 20% of its population live and work in tea communities. Like many other rural communities, tea communities in Assam face many challenges. Nearly 30% of of people in Assam live in what the World Bank defines as poverty. Child protection is a key issue: 43% of girls are married before they turn 18 and only 54% of young people in Assam are enrolled in secondary school. Tea manufacturers and exporters are repairing the situation with their CSR initiatives in Assam and other tea growing states like West Bengal in India.
Top 5 tea companies for CSR in India
Here are some of the tea companies that are running successful CSR projects in our country.
1. McLeod Russel
From vocational training, to empowering communities by providing opportunities to use their local and indigenous skills to generate additional income, McLeod Russel’s CSR initiatives are aligned with the company’s operating principles.
Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund (WASAF): WASAF is a new CSR programme that aims to create safe and empowered conditions for women tea workers in Assam. Along with tea producers, workers, buyers, government departments, service providers and civil society organisations, the WSAF objective is to achieve women’s safety within the tea supply chain. Conceptualized by IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative and buyers like Unilever and Tesco, WSAF will enable tea producers to Implement the Global Women’s Safety Framework (GWSF) in Rural Places by UN Women. It will reach out to at least 200,000 women workers across 300 tea estates of Assam by 2023. In the first phase of the project (2021), 32 tea estates from 12 tea companies, across 9 districts will be implementing the activities with support from WSAF empanelled local implementing partners.
Community Development Fora (CDF): Formed in 2018, Behora and Bukhial CDF are a registered body under the Societies Act of India. Bringing together important members of the community, it has implemented important activities like “Swatch Bagan”, alcohol abuse, children and youth development through learning centres and sports as well, making members of the estate valued citizens through its Panchayati Raj capacity building initiative. Through capacity building, estate development plans are made by the CDF for the community using a participatory approach. A testimony to the success of the CDF can be measured by its collaboration with nationally recognised premier organisations like Pratham, UPAI (Frisbee), RVC.
Improving access to water and sanitation in communities on tea estates in North India (Assam and Darjeeling) has been a priority for Twinings over the past 10 years. Twinings has been supporting Mercy Corps to implement a WaSH project in Dirial tea estate of McLeod Russel India (MRIL) which helped building 188 toilets enabling 1,060 individuals to access safe sanitation facilities. The programme was to compliment the efforts of producers in meeting the water and sanitation needs of the communities living on the estate. These units were supported through Twinings’ Sourced with Care programme along with fundraising by Twinings’ employees globally. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Mercy Corps leveraged its WaSH campaign and merged it with the COVID-19 awareness campaign through raising communities’ awareness on safety measures against COVID-19 such as wearing face masks, regular washing of hands and practising physical distance at public places.
‘Workforce Nutrition’ programme: Tea workers, and their family members mostly consume monotonous diet lacking in essential nutrients. To improve the diets of its worker population, McLeod Russel (MRIL) is implementing the ‘Workforce Nutrition’ programme in 8 of its tea estates in Dibrugarh-Tinsukia region- (Keyhung, Itakhooli, Dirial, Bogapani, Dehing, Margherita Namdang and Dirok). Implemented by the Dharma life foundation on the ground; the programme is a joint initiative between the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); a Swiss based international NGO, and the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). It focuses on improving the access to and demand for healthier diets as well as hand washing practices and is co-funded by leading tea brands such as Unilever, Taylors of Harrogate, Republic of Tea and a few other global tea companies.
2. Wagh Bakri Tea Group
Wagh Bakri Tea Group is one of the biggest tea companies in India. Shree Vasant Narayan Desai Multipurpose Charitable Trust, set up in memory of the Wagh Bakri Tea Group’s founder Shri Narandas Desai and Vasantba, also generously donates to the downtrodden people in the society for various causes since past four decades. Under its CSR umbrella, the Company has extended financial aid to three schools run by Dholka Education Society in Dholka, Ahmedabad.
As a token of gratitude towards the frontline warriors who have been tirelessly working to keep us safe and healthy, the Wagh Bakri Tea Group contributed over Rs. 3.50 crore to the Prime Minister’s and the CM Help Fund. An additional, Rs. 13 lakh has been contributed by the employees voluntarily along with the Group Board of Directors by donating their one day’s salary. The Group has also donated Rs. 1 crore to the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Fund to manage the health crisis.
Wagh Bakri Tea Group is also supporting a 550 bed COVID hospital built by the Indian Army in the cantonment areas of Ahmedabad, Jamnagar and Bhuj by donating PPE Masks, Gloves, Disposable Face Masks and Full Body Protection Kits worth Rs. 30 lakh. As the consumption of Green Tea and Ice Tea is recommended to boost one’s immunity, the Group is distributing Green Tea daily to help boost the immunity of over 2,000 Police and Health personnel on duty in Gujarat. Wagh Bakri teams have also been distributing Green Tea across Gujarat and have distributed over 50,000 tea packs till now.
In addition to the financial contribution, the Group is wholeheartedly supporting the institutions and groups who have engaged themselves to serve the weaker sections of the society. The Group has contributed tea in thousands of food & ration kits distributed by Blind People Association (BPA) Ahmedabad, Vishv Umiya Foundation Ahmedabad, Punjab National Bank (Trans Yamuna Branch Delhi), Akshaya Patra (Mathura, U.P), Mathura Branch and Sri Gurunanak Sports Education Society, Bhatinda (Punjab) just to name a few. The Wagh Bakri Tea Group is also supporting the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) by providing tea to approx. 3000 people staying at almost 30 different shelter homes in Ahmedabad.
3. Tata Consumer Products
Tata Consumer has a variety of tea brands in its stable including Tata Tea and its sub-brands, Tetley, Good Earth, Teapigs, Vitax and Joekels. Tata Consumer is a founding member of Trustea – a sustainability code and verification system for the tea sector in India. Trustea has transformed 700 million kgs or 53% of all black tea produced in India since its inception. The Code enables producers, buyers and others involved in Indian tea businesses to obtain tea that has been produced according to agreed, credible, transparent and measurable sustainability criteria. Trustea encompasses aspects of tea manufacturing and supports sustainability across the value chain by improving productivity and quality as well as maintaining safety standards. It supports smallholders and estates by improving the competitiveness of tea gardens through positively influencing the practices and scale of production, farm organisation, processing, new technologies and supply chain development.
A decade and a half ago, Tata Consumer and other tea companies co-founded the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). The ETP is a non-commercial partnership of tea companies committed to improving the lives of tea workers and their environment. Their mission is to enable sustainable growth across the tea supply chain — from crop to cup. One of the ways in which ETP affects sustainable change is through Farmer Field Schools (FFS), which enable farmers to choose their own curriculum and learn through practice on demonstration plots. The ETP also uses the Lead Farmer model, based on a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, whereby the local ETP staff provides training to a group of identified lead farmers, who then go on to train a smaller group of farmers.
4. Goodricke Group
Goodricke Group Limited and its holding company, Camellia Plc., believe strongly in operating with a ‘human face’. The tea gardens employ socially underprivileged tribes from remote corners of the country providing them with multiple benefits. The gardens provide subsidized food grains, housing facilities and other long term benefits to garden workers.
The Goodricke School for Special Education in Siliguri has state of the art facilities specifically designed and equipped for children with special needs. The Company has provided well equipped hospitals and maternity clinics for garden workers. Cleft Lip and cleft foot surgery conducted by overseas doctors totally subsidized by the company. It ensures access to clean drinking water for all workers. Water harvesting system has been put in all newly built factories with creation of large water bodies.
Largescale planting of trees are being done in areas not under tea plantation, to act as forest zones. Organic plantation is pursued in our Darjeeling garden contributing to human and animal health. Continuous efforts are being made to reduce pesticide load, although the group adheres to use of approved and safe pesticides. The Company has created schools for children of garden workers and provides free bus service to students pursuing higher education. Scholarship schemes for promising students of the workers.
Lipton abides by its parent company Unilever’s global ethical standards. All Lipton tea estates are Rainforest Alliance Certified. Rainforest Alliance farms meet very stringent standards, requiring farmers to reduce their overall use of pesticides and use biological alternatives where possible. Additionally, workers on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must receive proper training in the application of any pesticides and must only use pesticides when they are absolutely necessary to protect our beautiful crops.
Lipton designs products and packaging that use less raw materials and are easier to dispose of. The family-size boxes use over 40% less packaging material than previously. They now source most of the paper we use, from the world’s largest certification systems: PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). This guarantees that wood, and wood-based products, like Lipton packaging originate from sustainably-managed forests, with a properly maintained ecosystem and respect for local workers’ rights.
All growers and suppliers who want to work with Lipton must have a plan in place for how they intend to reduce chemicals and pesticides – especially WHO Class III pesticides. They will need to have a provable track record of having reduced pesticides and chemicals in the past.
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