Dutch tea companies start round table process with critical NGOs
No announcements are made of the outcome of the discussion. Chris Dutilh, sustainability manager of Unilever, and one of the participants in the round table, told P+: “We agreed to continue exploring each others views in order to get a good picture of the issues involved." Among the companies attending were Sara Lee International, Unilever and Albert Heijn. Their counterparts were the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), the India Committee of the Netherlands, Oxfam Novib and Both Ends.
At stake is a newly released report, ‘Sustainabilitea: the Dutch tea market and corporate social responsibility’, produced by the India Committee of the Netherlands, revealing that the tea industry lacks responsibility in the supply chain. In countries like India, Kenya, Malawi, Indonesia and Tanzania children are still frequently found working in the tea fields. In most tea-producing countries trade unions are weak and labour rights are easily sidestepped. China, an upcoming tea producer, is known to make use of forced labour. In all tea producing countries the wages of tea pickers are very low and the use of pesticides is widespread. Dutch consumers have no idea how the tea they buy has been produced.
Although some large companies, involved in producing or buying tea, do have special Corporate Social Responsibility strategies, the report states that they are not effective enough and that supply chain responsibility is an underdeveloped concept.
The research examines the global tea market and the power concentration, as well as practices of the big blending and packaging companies such as Unilever, Tata Tea, Hillsdown, Holding, Sara Lee International, Teekanne, Twinings and Ostfriesche Teegesellschaft.