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7 Dec 2021

Trouble brewing: the need for transparency in tea supply chains

Women collect tea leaves on a tea plantation at Chui Fong, Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Thirteen million workers who toil on tea plantations have suffered from endemic human rights abuses while the tea companies they pick for - some of the world’s largest and most profitable companies - have evaded responsibility for their supply chain workers and kept their supply chains hidden. Without supply chain transparency or adequate human rights due diligence processes, tea workers have been unable to hold companies to account when rights abuses occur.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre responded to this by reaching out to 65 tea companies, requesting both supply chain disclosure and responses to a survey on due diligence processes and our findings are summarised in this report.

As a result of the company outreach, 3,177 facilities are now listed on the world’s first Tea Transparency Tracker, where brands and retailers are linked directly to the factories and estates they source from. 1,009 facilities were found to be supplying more than one of the companies on the tracker with 22 of the facilities supplying more than 10 of the companies on the list, indicating significant opportunity for combined leverage to invest in improving working conditions and providing remedy to workers, in response to allegations.

Key Findings
🍃 Thirty-six of the 65 companies approached did not respond, including Finlays, Sainsburys, Teapigs and Walmart.

🍃 Of the 29 companies that engaged, 18 fully or partially disclosed their list of sourcing estates or bought-leaf factories.

🍃 The 10 that fully disclosed were Bettys and Taylors, Jenier Limited, Twinings, Ringtons, Tesco, Yogi Tea, East West Tea company, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons and Plus (Superunie).

🍃 Ahmad Tea, Typhoo, Tetley, Unilever/ekaterra*, Starbucks Teavana, Teasup and Ecotone (Clipper) partially disclosed information on their supplier facilities.

🍃 Three companies shared their list of intermediary companies (through which they source their tea) without further information – Stick & Lembke, Whittard of Chelsea and Bigelow.

Tea Transparency Tracker

We asked 65 companies about their policies surrounding pay, working conditions and fundamental rights for workers in their supply chains. Learn more about what they do, and don't, have in place.

* Unilever/ekaterra – BHRRC invited Unilever/ekaterra to disclose supply chain details and respond to our survey prior to the November 2021 announcement of the sale of Unilever’s tea division, ekaterra, to CVC Capital Partners. Unilever/ekaterra provideda combined supply chain disclosure and survey response for all brands owned at the time.