trustea is a locally developed and owned Indian sustainability code and verification system for the tea sector. trustea supports smallholders, tea estates and bought leaf factories in improving their competitiveness by the positively influencing the scale of production, farm organization, processing, new technologies, supply chain development, and regulatory compliance. trustea also works to improve livelihoods of smallholders and tea estate workers, consumer safety and productivity. This India specific sustainability tea code has been developed from within the Indian industry, by the industry and for the industry, incorporating globally prevalent sustainability practices.

The trustea program seeks to promote and facilitate the sustainable transformation of the Indian tea industry, based on globally accepted sustainability principles by managing and implementing the trustea code. The program focuses on soil conservation and management, water management, fertilizer management, crop protection, food safety, health, safety and welfare of the workers, working conditions and labor rights, biodiversity and environmental management, waste, and pollution management. The code has clear social and environmental objectives including protection and preservation of the environment, developing and imparting training and education programs, which will have a beneficial impact on the social, environmental and sustainability issues of the Indian tea industry, and social welfare and improvement of livelihood of workers and small growers.

Ownership: trustea Code is developed, owned and managed by Indian tea industry stakeholders.

Food safety: Extensive focus is given on food safety components integrated into the Code.

Good manufacturing practices: The Code incorporates tea manufacturing processes and other good practices covering tea factories.

Lower certification cost: Cost of trustea certification is lower as compared to other sustainability certifications. This is achieved through innovative verification systems by external audits in alternate years and use of locally trained auditors.

Smallholders: So far, small tea growers and small tea estates were so far not part of the sustainable supply chains in India. The trustea Code brings in these groups into the sustainability fold.

Support: trustea invests in highly experienced field staff and field offices to assist the producers to be compliant with the code.

The trustea certificate holder will be tea 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, bought
lead factories or grower group representative having an arrangement for processing, who will then work with the production sites and the smallholders respectively.

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. The audits will then 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 trustea secretariat.

The code is designed towards a progressive achievement of complete compliance by the third year. The “Mandatory” and “Other Criteria” in the Code have been divided into four segments covering 11 chapters. In each segment, the verified unit will need to meet 100 percent of Mandatory control points and 50 percent other Criteria in the first year, 65% in the second year and 80% in the third year. If a control point is not applicable, it will be adjusted accordingly for the percentage of control points required for verification.

However, a non-applicable control point will not get any additional percentage point. The total compliance percentage points (Mandatory and Other Criteria)is -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

trustea, the Indian tea program, identifies and approves select audit firms to conduct the audits. The program will ensure that the cost of the audits is kept at optimum levels. The auditors will be chosen by the tea businesses themselves from the list of empanelled audit firms. The experienced Implementation Partner teams on the ground will provide support to the estates, smallholders and bought leaf factories in complying with the code, leading to a level of compliance which bring them to a state of readiness to be assessed by the third-party external audit firm.

Objectivity: The third-party auditors working under strict guidelines to bring in objectivity by providing the top management with an unbiased and clear feedback. Worldwide, third-party audits are seen as more credible than self-certification.

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 organization. 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.

Lower business risk: The third-party auditors by certification help to get an objective assessment of the level of compliance. This not only reduces strain on senior management’s time but also acts as a door keeper for many potential problems thereby lowering business risk.

The trustea program is governed by multi-stakeholder trustea Sustainable Tea Council representing the tea industry in India. trustea Sustainable Tea Council have representation from the following categories:

  • Producers – 4 (Plantations North India & South India -2)
  • Small Tea Growers – 1
  • Bought Leaf Factories – 1
  • Tea Packers & Buyers – 4
  • Not for profit Organization/ Civil Society – 3
  • Research/ Academia – 1

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. Many leading buyers of tea in India are moving forward with a structured and committed program to increase the sourcing level of sustainably certified tea. This trend indicates that being certified to the Indian tea sustainability program —trustea — will ensure highly a competitive market access for the trustea certified organizations.

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