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Tea industry collaborates to improve sustainability



Some of the key players in the tea industry have joined forces to improve sustainability and combat challenges that businesses are facing such as climate change.

A report, The Future of Tea: A Hero Crop for 2030, co-ordinated by Forum of the Future, is the result of businesses collaborating to identify key challenges, forecast issues and combine knowledge to create solutions.

The process detailed in the report aims to make tea a ‘hero crop’ – a commodity that delivers benefits to the sector, planet and the wider economy. It argues that developing a hero crop has the ability to secure a sustainable livelihood for producers, address challenges related to climate change, and make the production, supply and distribution of tea transparent and fair.

The report says, “The numerous sustainability challenges faced by many industries, including the tea industry, are too big for any one company to address alone; rather they need the co-operation of all parts of the value chain working together.”

Some of the challenges facing the tea industry are demographic changes, resource constraints, competition for land and productivity and improving wages and labour welfare in the supply chain. To address these challenges, Forum of the Future says the report showcases a way of “radically rethinking” the approach to commodities.

For instance, the tea industry is already felling the impact of competition for land. Between 2005 and 2010, 13,000 hectares of land in Indonesia was converted from tea to other purposes, such as growing rubber, palm oil and fruit. As tea is not a staple crop, concerns have also been raised that in the future the land on which tea is grown will be needed for other crops. One of the solutions put forward is a return to natural farming practices where “tea bushes are part of the natural ecosystem”.

Increasing water demand, which is predicted to increase by 50% by 2030, also places pressure in the tea industry. This means that globally prices and competition could increase, the industry has already adapted the way it operates over the last 20 to 30 years to offset changing weather patterns but will need to go further.

Ron Mathison, group managing director of tea trader James Finlay Limited, said, “We must work with all key stakeholders to explore all the major factors that might influence and shape the future sustainability of the tea industry. This is why we are taking a leading role in the Future of Tea 2030, collaborating with other to achieve meaningful and lasting change, so that we are all around for the next 260 years.”

Further reading:

Why sugar could be next on ethical investors’ list of exclusions

Jeremy Grantham on investing, resource scarcity and climate change

Investor interest in deforestation supply chain risks increasing

US timber set for structural growth…!

Shared Planet: does nature have an economic value?