With October being Fair Trade Month, it only seems fitting that Honest Tea, the titan of bottled organic tea, has announced its commitment to making its complete line of products Fair Trade Certified. The company’s transition to Fair Trade began in 2003, with the introduction of Peach Oo-la-long and over the past three years, the number of teas under certification has increased to 19. By the end of the 2011 first quarter, the entire 28 tea selection will become Fair Trade Certified.
In an Honest Tea press release, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA Paul Rice commented, “Honest Tea is once again raising the bar for the entire industry. Honest Tea has been a pioneer in social responsibility from the beginning, so this decision is a natural, authentic progression in the company’s history. This expansion makes the statement that sustainability and empowerment in the developing world matter to Honest Tea, and that they care about the workers who harvest their tea and the future of their communities.”
The Fair Trade label obliges Honest Tea producers to meet Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) and Fair Trade USA standards that enhance tea farmers’ quality of life. Those standards ensure workers gain a fair portion of profits, have fair working conditions, freedom of association, minimum wage, and that they work under environmentally sustainable agricultural practices that are safe for people and the planet.
Another key tenet of fair trade is that premiums paid by participating companies are put into community investment funds aimed at improving workers’ communities. On each of Honest Tea’s tea estates, a Joint Body of elected workers and
management choose how tea profits will be reinvested into community development projects. Working closely with the Makaibari Tea Estate in India, where much of their tea is grown, Honest Tea’s fair trade premiums have aided many initiatives. Makaibari Tea Estate, one of India’s oldest tea gardens, is 240 acres that 610 workers and their families call home. Some of the projects include updating the village library, villager health training, funding for university studies and the establishment of the Makaibari Computer Center open to all villagers. Funds have also gone toward environmental projects including afforestation, mulching, rainwater harvesting and vermicomposting.
According to Fair Trade USA, tea is one of the most rapidly growing Fair Trade Certified product categories, demonstrated by the fact that Fair Trade Certified tea imports rose 187% in 2005. As people drink tea more than any beverage besides water, Honest Tea’s decision will have a significant impact on tea farmers in developing countries, where most tea is produced. You can read more about Honest Tea’s environmental and social initiatives in their first annual mission report entitled “Keeping it Honest.”