Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


UTZ agrees global tea code

March 2009

A tea producers’ ethical code has been created by a body that runs one of the largest certification programmes for coffee.

The Dutch-based UTZ Certified has put the Code of Conduct for Tea out to public consultation until July. The 28-page document lists dozens of requirements in areas such as soil management, fertilizer use, irrigation, pest control, child labour, collective bargaining, maternity provision and biodiversity.

Any companies that agree to abide by the code will be visited by UTZ-appointed auditors who will award points for their performance against each requirement.

UTZ says the code will apply to producers of all sizes, from large estates to smallholders. However, the draft is intended purely for estates, and an adapted version for smallholders will follow.

During consultation the code will be tested in pilot projects in Indonesia and Malawi. The final version is expected in the second quarter of this year.

Among other things, the code states that large tea estates that accommodate workers on site should encourage employees to send their children to primary school. This could involve awareness meetings for parents, providing transport to schools, or even offering education on-site using qualified teachers.

UTZ has concentrated mainly on certifying coffee growers and has worked with companies such as Ahold and Douwe Egberts. However, it has an ambitious growth strategy and sees an extension into the tea sector as part of this.

The main ethical supply chain effort in the tea sector is run at present by the Ethical Tea Partnership, a five-year-old UK-based body of 21 tea packers ranging from large multinationals to small privately owned companies. The partnership, which covers more than 60 brands, has its own code and monitoring system.

However, one member, Unilever, the world’s largest buyer of black tea, decided last year to source its entire tea supply using more general Rainforest Alliance standards, starting with the certification of producers in East Africa (EP9, issue 3, p4).

Starbucks UK has announced that all its espresso coffee will be from certified Fairtrade sources by the end of 2009. Because Starbucks uses espresso in other drinks such as cappuccino, the arrangement will cover the majority of its beverages.

Utz Certified | Global | Codes of conduct

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