Main tea corporations linked to plantations with reported human rights abuses, report says

May 22, 2023

Main tea corporations linked to plantations with reported human rights abuses, report says


  • A number of massive tea corporations — together with Unilever, Ekaterra and Starbucks — had been linked to plantations at which 70 reviews of human rights abuses had been made in 2022, in accordance with a new report revealed by the Enterprise & Human Rights Useful resource Centre, a nonprofit group.
  • The abuses had been linked to employee compensation, well being and security. Some staff on farms, the nonprofit mentioned, had been reprimanded or dismissed for union exercise or protesting for higher therapy. The reviews occurred on farms in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kenya and Uganda.
  • The nonprofit — which urged extra transparency from producers and fewer reliance on third-party certification teams — mentioned these reviews might symbolize the “tip of the iceberg,” and there might be many extra.



Roughly 1.5 million workers are employed within the tea sector. By not offering actual particulars about their sourcing and provide chains, tea corporations are in a position to distance themselves from rights violations, the report says.

“Employees have a proper to know who’s making the most of the tea they’re selecting — and be capable to establish the place they have to go to voice any grievances,” mentioned Kate Jelly, a labor rights researcher for the group.


The report mentioned some corporations rely too closely on certification from third-party organizations — particularly the Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade — to ensure human rights safety for employees. Based on the nonprofit, corporations should do extra due diligence for their very own provide chains and interact extra with stakeholders and staff to drive change.


The Enterprise & Human Rights Useful resource Centre reached out to the businesses linked to the reported abuses. The responses general “indicated a major hole between coverage commitments and the way these are applied in follow,” the report mentioned.


Unilever, in its response, mentioned it was conscious of and addressed reported points at a few of the farms it sources from, however not others. The corporate mentioned it’s in touch with its suppliers to deal with the incidents, and plans to replace its international tea provider listing by the tip of the primary fiscal quarter of this 12 months.


“Cross-industry work stays essential, together with via organisations such because the Moral Tea Partnership whereas points such because the incomes of at the very least a residing wage or earnings in international provide chains … are additionally essential to assist enhance working situations and lift residing requirements general,” Unilever mentioned.


Ekaterra — the venture-capital-owned firm made up of a lot of Unilever’s former tea manufacturers, together with Lipton — didn’t reply to the report’s authors about whether or not the plantations the place the abuse reportedly occurred are nonetheless in its provide chain. In an emailed assertion to Meals Dive, Ekaterra’s international head of exterior affairs Oleg Piletsky mentioned the corporate is in touch with Rainforest Alliance about what measures they’ll implement with regard to the tea farms they supply from.


“We count on the tea from these farms to adjust to sustainability requirements regarding working situations and honest wages for employees,” Piletsky mentioned.


In a response to the report, Starbucks said its sourcing from the plantations in query is “very low” and that it investigates all allegations of human rights abuses. The corporate mentioned it’s reinforcing with tea suppliers that they have to inform the corporate of any human rights violations, and monitoring to substantiate the farms it sources from re-certified with Rainforest Alliance.

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