The India Sustainable Tea Program - trustea

1. What is the India Tea Programme?

The India Domestic Sustainable Tea Program seeks to sustainably transform around 500 million kg of tea. Current funders are Hindustan Unilever and IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative. Solidaridad is the implementing partner for the program. Rainforest Alliance is involved as technical advisor. The 5-year program runs from 2012-2016 and aims to target 600+ factories, 500.000 tea plantation workers and 40.000 smallholders.The main focus for the program is to accelerate transformation of the Indian tea market in close partnership with tea industry stakeholders. It includes the development and implementation of a cost effective and practical to implement sustainability code based on Indian realities but without compromising on globally accepted sustainability principles. The India specific sustainability tea code will be developed from the industry, by the industry and for the industry.

2. What does the India tea code seeks to achieve?

The Indian tea Code is designed to evaluate the social, economic, agronomic and environmental performance of Indian tea estates, smallholders and Bought Leaf Factories (BLFs). It is expected that the compliance with the code not only improves competitiveness of the tea farms but facilitates the tea farms in achieving compliance with national regulations and international sustainability standards in a step-wise approach. The applicable control points under each chapters are required to be adhered to within a three year period, resulting in full compliance by end of year 3. The India tea code allows producers to show that they operate responsibly – producing quality tea according to strict social and environmental standards. The verification under the code provides manufacturers with the assurance of responsible production and provides opportunities to credibly demonstrate this to their customers.

3. What is innovative in the India tea code?

  1. Ownership: Code is developed, owned and managed by Indian tea industry stakeholders.
  2. Food safety: Extensive focus on food safety components integrated into the code
  3. Good manufacturing practices: tea manufacturing processes and other good practices covering tea factories in one code
  4. Lower certification cost: Innovative verification systems of external audits in alternate years and reduced cost due to use of locally trained auditors.
  5. Smallholders: Brings in smallholders and small estates into sustainability fold. These groups were so far not part of the sustainable supply chains in India.
  6. Support: Invests in highly experienced field staff and field offices to assist the producers to be compliant with the code.

4. Who can be verified under the code?

The certificate holder will betea Plantation Company, the bought leaf factory, or the independent producer groups together with the factory. The code covers all aspects of production and manufacturing. The entry-point of the code for compliance will be the factories in estates, BLFs or grower group representative having an arrangement for processing, who will then work with the production sites and the smallholders respectively.

5. How does one get verified under the India Tea Code?

The code is designed towards a progressive achievement of complete compliance by the year 3. The "Mandatory" and "Other Criteria" have been divided in 4 segments covering 11 chapters. In each segment, the verified unit will need to meet 100% of Mandatory control points and 50% other Criteria in year 1, 65% in year 2 and 80% in year 3. If a control point is not applicable, it will have to be adjusted accordingly for percentage of control points required for verification. But a not applicable control point will not get an additional percentage point. The total compliance percentage points (Mandatory and Other Criteria) in year 1: 82%, year 2: 88% and year 3: 93%.Further, there will be 0.5 marks for minor non-compliances if the auditors can assure that the unit is progressing towards full compliance.

In the first year, the entity going for verification needs to undertake external verification audits by auditors approved by the code secretariat as per the verification protocol and then such audits will be conducted every alternate year. In the years, when there are no external audits, the verified unit must conduct internal audits and supply the audit report to the Indian tea code secretariat

6. How will you choose your auditors?

The India tea programme would identify and approve select Indian audit firms to conduct the audits. The programme will ensure that the cost of the audits is kept at the cheapest possible level by reducing the sample size and also creating efficiency so that number of days needed for audit is significantly reduced. The auditors will be chosen by the tea businesses themselves and work out a plan of action with them. The experienced Solidaridad team on the ground will provide support to the estates and smallholders in complying with this audit process.

7. Why do we need a third party audit?

  1. Objectivity:The auditors working under a strict ISO 17065 based guidelines brings in an outsiders objective perspective providing the top management with an unbiased and clear feedback. No doubt that worldwide third party audits are seen as more credible than self-certification.
  2. Knowledge and Validation: Third party audit companies have the benefit of a client base and extensive training; therefore, they have the advantage to conduct compliance audits in multiple environments. While audits are inherently unique to each retailer, there are a series of best practices that can be shared among the group of clients, which only services to strengthen each individual audit program.
  3. Lower business Impact: The third party auditors by certifying you, takes away the risk of non-compliance from you. In large operations like in tea industry, you can always have few issues that slip out of your attention. The third party auditors not only reduces strain on your senior management time but also acts as a door keeper for you from any potential problems.

8. How does India Tea Code relate to other similar credentials and programs ETP/The Rainforest Alliance/UTZ etc.?

ETP, The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ are important strategic partners for the founding partners of the programme-IDH, Hindustan Unilever and Solidaridad globally. The new code has largely been modeled on current internationally recognized standards and yet it is developed, owned and operated out of India by Indian stakeholders. The Rainforest Alliance is a strong endorser of the program as The Rainforest Alliance is directly involved in the program as the Technical Partner for IDH, Solidaridad and HUL. The India sustainability verification code will be benchmarked against ETP, The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ and will showthe steps to be taken by producers to move from compliance with the Indiacode to other certification codes if they so desire.

9. Who supports the India tea code?

The Programme Advisory Committee is an informal assembly of key Indian tea industry stakeholders committed to working together to enhance the accountability and credibility of the tea programme in general and the Indian Tea Code specifically.

The members of the PAC

The agreed stakeholder groups for the PAC are:

  1. Tea Board of India (Chair)
  2. Indian Tea Association (To be confirmed)
  3. United Planters Association for Southern India (To be confirmed)
  4. Tea Broker Representative (J.Thomas& Co)
  5. Federation of All India Tea Traders Association (FAITTA)
  6. National Federation of Small Tea Growers Association
  7. IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative (Funding Partner)
  8. Solidaridad Asia (Implementing Partner & secretary to the PAC)
  9. Hindustan Unilever Limited (Funding Partner)
  10. Rainforest Alliance (Technical Partner)

10. Will HUL stop buying teas from plantations that are Non-Compliant in the Sustainability program?

More and more consumers globally are insisting that the products they pay for are sourced sustainably. This is no longer a western phenomenon. The Indian consumer is also becoming more aware and will soon demand that brands deliver sustainably sourced products. Which consumer would not like a safe product which has been sourced in a way that has a positive impact on the livelihood of thousands of people and also the environment?

HUL has set the target to source 100% of its Global Tea supplies from sustainablesources by the year 2020. HUL is aware that this will not happen overnight, but the journey needs to start now. For this reason it invests with IDH in the sustainability program with capacity building activities free of charge to producers.

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