Giving New Meaning to Green Tea

Unilever"s decision to go sustainable could benefit millions of tea growers.© Getty Images

International consumer products conglomerate Unilever, which owns and operates the world’s two leading tea brands (Lipton in the U.S. and PG Tips in Great Britain), announced last week that it plans to shift sourcing of its entire tea supply to sustainable producers. The companies will certify the process according to standards set by the Rainforest Alliance, a leading nonprofit engaged in using market-based tools to preserve biodiversity across the world’s vanishing tropical rainforest ecosystems.

Unilever will kick-off the initiative by seeking certification for its tea producers in East Africa, and expects to start offering certified tea in Europe within a few months. By 2015, all tea the company sells will come from certified sustainable tea farms.

"We are delighted to be working with a company that understands the value of putting sustainability at the heart of its business," says Tensie Whelan, the executive director of the Rainforest Alliance, which was instrumental in crafting the agreement. "By bringing Rainforest Alliance certification to its tea supply, Unilever has taken an unprecedented step that could eventually benefit millions of tea growers globally," she says.

While the Unilever announcement represents a first for the tea industry, the Rainforest Alliance has been instrumental in setting up similar certification programs for coffee, cocoa, bananas and other crops, as well as in forestry and tourism. Whelan adds that certified producers in all of these other product sectors have been able to charge higher prices and improve their communities" standards of living accordingly.

Sources: Rainforest Alliance: Planet Ark/Sustainable Teas