Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cuppa, anyone ?

I just returned from a vacation in north Manchester, where i grew up. Aside from my family, and Coronation Street (there are some that would say there is a resemblance :)), there are only two things i miss and which are unavailable in Israel. Bisto and Tetley tea. You just can't get a great cuppa in Israel. So, as i enjoy sipping my round-bag Tetley, the nostalgic taste of my adolescence, i wondered about the reporting practices of this iconic brand. Tetley is number one in the UK and Canada, number two in Australia and three in the US. So i am in good tea-sipping company.

The site is not terribly revealing BUT i note that Teltey tea is ethically traded. "Growing and producing tea provides a livelihood for millions of people around the world. Assuring their living and working conditions is very important to us, and we manage this through our membership of a growing international organisation called the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). This is a non commercial alliance of 18 international tea packers who believe in a shared responsibility for the social and ethical conditions involved in the sourcing of tea." Other than this positive revelation, the 2 pager on corporate information - the media pack - contains a page on ethical, environmental and social impacts. Wonder why they think only the press would be interested in this ? But no CSR report. What a disappointment.

However, another revelation, at the bottom of the website there is a tag: A TATA Enterprise.

Aha! So, Tetley's belongs to Tata.

So by now you know that i dont like to leave my tea-bags hanging in mid-air, so i take a trip to where i find Tata Tea's 2007-2008 Tata Tea Sustainability Report. I am impressed with the references to "holistic" management and "social awakening" - tea is really quite a spiritual thing, apparently. "In an attempt to migrate the Tata Tea brand medium of physical and emotional rejuvenation to a platform of intellectual and social awakening", Tata launched an award winning social marketing campaign. I am very gratified. Now i can not only enjoy my ethical cuppa, but i can be rejuvenated as well. Though organic instant tea isnt really my cup of tea. (Yes, that was a pun). Tata Tea is a Global Compact signatory, which is positive, and 100% of instant tea waste goes to the biofuel gasifier, which produces 200 tons of steam power per day to run the plants. A 54 page report written along GRI guidelines with an index and a UNGC index, this is a nice report and presents a credible picture of the way Tata and Tetley make my cuppa. Tata Group is a massive enterprise, in diverse sectors, turning over around $62 billion and employing around 350,000 people. So to have a focused report on their tea business is quite a refreshing surprise. Quite rejuvenating.

Makes me wonder about Tata-Tetley's indirect impacts - I mean - what do people do with tea-bags AFTER use ? How do Tata-Tetley influence consumer behaviour to manage tea-bag waste ecologically ? This site has some answers. Including soothing your eyes, curing your warts, scenting your drawers, mainating your meat, cleaning your mirrors and removing old polish from wood furniture. Removing old polish ? Oy, what is it doing to my intestines ?

Bisto (aaaaaaaaaaaah Bisto!. Remember those great TV ads ?), is less transparent but . Owned by Premier Foods, the CSR report is a 4 pager covering the headlines - Ethical Trading Initiative, WRAP for reduction of packaging weights, governance, employee practices, and adherence to the Five-Fold Environmental Ambition of the Food and Drink Federation. Good stuff on the whole. I am not tempted to think about what you can do with unused gravy, but Bisto makers could go that extra drop to make their sustainability a little more transparent.

Anyway, now that i am back home, awakened and rejuvenated, no warts, clean mirrors, depolished intestines and with full ethical gravy availability, i am glad that my nostalgic shopping spree was highly sustainable. Now, where did i put that used tea bag ..........

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm based in Israel. Visit our website at: !

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