Morrisons' response to allegations of abuses in its tea supply chain
Our tea supply chains...often sit at tier 3 or below, which presents challenges in monitoring producer level issues when these are only reported in local media. Our primary supplier monitors emerging risk relating to growers in our supply chain through their engagement with ETP, THIRST and through source country agent relationships.
However, in this case we were not made aware of the issues relating to the estates in the supply chains referenced in BHRRCs research.
Our supplier has now confirmed that only 6 of the estates referenced in the BHRRC report are currently in the Morrisons supply chain:
- McLeod Russel
- Bugambe – tea purchased in 2022
- Kelani Valley:
- Ingestre – tea purchased in 2022
- Bogawantalawa Tea Estates:
- Letheny – tea purchased in 2021, in blends from 2022
- Darjeeling Organic Tea Estates PVT Ltd (DOTEPL)
- Sivitar - tea purchased in 2021, in blends from 2022
- Nurbong - tea purchased in 2021, in blends from 2022
- Mullootar - tea purchased in 2021, in blends from 2022
Other estates referenced were detailed on our previous supplier list published in February 2022 but this has since been revised by our primary supplier...
All tea sourced from these estates is Rainforest Alliance certified. The issues reported by BHRRC appear to be industry wide, but our primary supplier has received confirmation from McLeod Russel that the situation on their estates was resolved amicably in July 2022.
The annual pay agreement is negotiated by unions and the Tea Association at the beginning of each year. However the 2022 increase had still not been agreed by July, leading to industrial action across the country. McLeod Russel responded by independently implementing a pay rise in line with the union’s proposal. The Tea Association subsequently agreed to this proposal and the pay rise was implemented at other producer companies.
Our primary supplier visited Bugambe in 2021 and reported good practices on both social protection (including hiring refugees in partnership with UNHCR) and environmental management. Our supplier has also requested a statement from The Uganda Tea Association, but has yet to receive a response.
Our primary supplier sources very small amounts of tea from Sri Lanka for inclusion in Morrisons own-brand tea blends, so our leverage and influence in this country is limited. However all our source estates are Rainforest Alliance certified, and our supplier is closely monitoring impacts from the evolving economic crisis in the country. Our supplier is working with their sourcing agent in Sri Lanka, to build understanding of the situation and identify potential opportunities for improvement. They have also received a detailed update from the Planters’ Association of Ceylon (copy attached) and are working in collaboration with the Ethical Tea Partnership to better understand and address the issues raised by BHRRC.
We source a very small volume of tea from Darjeeling, for use in one single origin product. Our supplier has not purchased any tea from DOTEPL for use in Morrisons blends since 2021, which predates the issues raised in BHRRC research. They have however confirmed that they are in consultation with the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) as part of a wider investigation into the issues reported by BHRRC. The ETP already has a detailed country plan in place for India, and acknowledges the issues arising from wages and bonuses as part of the wider economic situation in the Darjeeling tea industry.
Engagement on the wider concerns highlighted in BHRRCs research will be managed by our primary supplier through their direct supplier relationships, and via collective action with multi-stakeholder initiatives. They also regularly visit all key plantations to monitor working conditions and maintain contact with local Tea Boards and Planters Associations to lobby for local support of workers.
Our supplier only works with agents and estates who adhere to their code of conduct to safeguard the rights of workers, which includes detailed requirements on Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSH&E). Regular audits by certification bodies (e.g. Rainforest Alliance) also assess health and safety protocols, risk assessments and compliance, verifying that workers are fully trained to those standards and aware of their obligations. Our supplier also corroborates standards in person via regular visits to tea estates by their Responsible Sourcing Manager.
We recognise that wage issues in tea supply chains are complex, caused by a multitude of factors and cannot be addressed by one stakeholder alone...The tea sector faces additional complexity as tea estates are often situated in remote locations where there is a lack of state investment in infrastructure.
Our supplier is working in collaboration with ETP to build a greater understanding of these issues and to identify opportunities for improvement at local level. Morrisons are additionally engaging with the sustainability initiative IDH to collaboratively address living wage and living income issues in other higher risk supply chains...
[The full response is attached]