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Fear free tea

  1. Typhoo does not guarantee the tea in the product is “Fear Free”.
  2. The question ‘Is your tea fear free?’ is a suggestion to the consumer to consider how ethical their tea is given that the violence against women in tea estates is prevalent.
  3. Even if Typhoo is making all the efforts to improve the situation for the women workers in our supply chain, this is a long term and complex journey. As the issue is underreported — precisely because of fear — Typhoo’s sucess will be measured by an increase in the number of cases uncovered (and then remediated). Once a few cases have successful remediation, there will be more trust in the reporting systems, fear of retaliation will decrease, and it is expected that higher numbers of victim-survivors will come forward.
  4. Typhoo invites the tea industry to question and assess whether their teas are free of sexual violence.
  5. Not only women, also children, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and people belonging to other vulnerable categories living near tea estates are at risk of violence. Typhoo is only able to tackle an issue at a time, however, all progress done in the protection of women positively impacts everyone else at risk, since the systems of prevention and remediation in the tea plantations that Typhoo has partnered with offer protection to everyone who works or lives in those tea plantations.

Women tea workers suffer violence

  1. We know sexual abuse and harassment happens on tea estates (even if there are no official statistics for it) thanks to a long list of academic research, expert reports, court cases and our field observations.
  2. The Rainforest Alliance defines sexual violence against women farmworkers as ‘commonplace’. The legal firm Leigh Day described it as an ‘endemic culture of rape and coercion’ for tea.
  3. According to the BBC’s Panorama documentary, Sex for Work: the True Cost of Our Tea (aired on February 20, 2023) 3 in 4 women interviewed reported being abused by their managers or employment contractors. This alarming statistic, derived from direct interviews with 100 female tea workers.
  4. This statistic is also supported by: a study by the ILRF (2002) who reported that ‘over 90% of respondents had experienced, or observed, sexual abuse within their workplace’; a literature review by the ILO (2018) that claims ‘sexual violence and harassment among commercial agricultural workers is widespread, perhaps even pervasive’ globally; and a field observation by Typhoo’s Responsible Sourcing Manager in Malawi, where a human rights lawyer working with victims of harassment in tea estates estimated an 80% prevalence rate based on focus groups where 8 out of 10 women reported abuse.

1 Million women fear violence while working on tea estates

  1. The exact incidence of sexual violence against women farmworkers is unknown. This is partly due to the fact that most women fear reporting issues and partly because of the lack of comprehensive studies and surveys conducted across tea-producing regions. The number of women working in tea estates globally does not have an official figure either, as some countries are not capturing this statistic.
  2. We have estimated ‘1 million women’ work in tea in order to provide consumers, unaware of the issue, a quantitative value that brings attention to the size of this horrific issue.
  3. According to the BBC’s Panorama documentary, Sex for Work: the True Cost of Our Tea (aired on February 20, 2023) 3 in 4 women interviewed reported being abused by their managers or employment contractors. This alarming statistic, derived from direct interviews with 100 female tea workers.
  4. This statistic is also supported by: a study by the ILRF (2002) who reported that ‘over 90% of respondents had experienced, or observed, sexual abuse within their workplace’; a literature review by the ILO (2018) that claims ‘sexual violence and harassment among commercial agricultural workers is widespread, perhaps even pervasive’ globally; and a field observation by Typhoo’s Responsible Sourcing Manager in Malawi, where a human rights lawyer working with victims of harassment in tea estates estimated an 80% prevalence rate based on focus groups where 8 out of 10 women reported abuse.
  5. Among the 13 million people employed in the tea industry, 4 million work on tea estates (ref pg 7 of this report by THIRST https://thirst.international/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/THIRST_HRIA_Lit_Review_Final.pdf) with women constituting 30-60% of this workforce (depending on country, 30% for Malawi, >50% for India – ref pg 8 of this factsheet by ETP https://etp-global.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Women-in-Tea-Factsheet.pdf )
  6. Combining these figures, we have calculated that between 1.2 and 2 million women work on tea estates globally, out of which a minimum of 900,000 would be experiencing sexual violence.
  7. ‘1 million women fear violence while working on tea estates’ seems underrepresented, in that case, as we believe that, given the pervasive nature of the problem, potentially 100% of those 1.2-2 million women are in fear of violence and harassment.

We're working to make them safe

  1. Even if Typhoo does not own tea estates, as a brand, we have re-thought everything in order to ensure that a) we only work with tea gardens doing the best possible work to prevent and remediate violence and abuse in the fields and b) that we are supporting them on this mission.
  2. Focussing solely on stopping sexual violence on tea estates: the safety of women tea workers will be at the core of Typhoo’s business decisions. And, we have a dedicated resource to ensure we stay true to this commitment — our Fear Free Council. Typhoo works closely with the tea gardens to identify what gaps need to be covered to guarantee the safety of women tea workers’ and put the necessary measures in place.
  3. Revolutionising our supply chain by partnering with three trusted growers who put women’s safety first: we have selected three tea farms in two countries (who have the best practices for the protection of women workers). We are supporting them with long term partnerships to ensure they are well equipped to deliver our shared mission, and concentrated volumes, so that Typhoo can focus its attention on this specific topic.
  4. Funding women’s safety: paying higher prices to growers for tea, to ensure the sustainability of those gardens making great progress on stopping violence against women. This is key considering the challenges of the tea market (climate change, increasing operational costs, low global prices). We also invest in womens safety with additional to deploy or support existing initiatives in tea estates. This ensures improvements on protection and remediation systems continue to be developed and applied.

We’re on a mission to make the tea industry safe for women on tea estates. 

  1. Our commitment to making the tea industry safe for women on tea estates starts with revolutionsising our own supply chain and our way of making business decisions, with women and farmers at the core. Our goal is to to prove that a different (better) way of doing business in tea is possible, and become a role model that other brands (not just tea) can follow.
  2. At the same time, we consider it essential to bring the consumer with us on this journey. Our brand is the first to actively educate consumers about the issue of violence against women on tea estates, share different ways of adressing this issue and explain the impact that consumers’ purchasing decisions can have on improving the lives of workers. By raising awareness about the challenges faced by women in tea, and highlighting the positive changes our brand is driving, we will encourage consumers to spread the word and support Typhoo. We believe that this will put pressure on other tea brands to adopt similar measures to meet consumer expectations, which will ultimately level the playfield for tea growers once more tea brands align with Typhoo’s commitment to making the tea industry safe for women on tea estates.

OUR FEAR FREE GUARDIAN: Focusing solely on stopping gender based violence on tea estates.

  1. The safety of women tea workers will be at the core of Typhoo’s decision making processes.
  2. Allocated resource has been defined in order to ensure we stay true to this commitment, the Fear Free Guardian and the Fear Free Council.
  3. A key part of their role is working closely with the gender and human rights specialists in tea gardens to identify what gaps need covering for the guarantee of women tea workers’ safety and putting the measures in place for Typhoo to help our partner tea estates to cover these gaps with additional funding.
  4. Typhoo’s additional funds are dedicated to covering gaps in programmatic work and/or operational needs, deploying or supporting existing dedicated intiatives in tea estates.
  5. The Fear Free Guardian is a specialist in gender equality and rural development, and her background informs Typhoo’s participatory and decolonial approach: listening to the expert voices on the ground both in tea estates and independent organisations. Typhoo wil not inadvertently hamper progress towards our shared goal because of imposing an agenda. Furthermore, Typhoo’s initiatives will contribute positively to the mission, and complement existing efforts.

From hundreds to a handful of trusted growers

  1. In 2021 we publicly disclosed to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre our sourcing list: we had 425 tea suppliers in our supply chain. https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/companies/typhoo/?companies=761739
  2. Since 2024, all our tea comes from only 3 farms in 2 countries in Africa.

Trusted growers who put women’s safety first.

We have chosen these three farms as they have prioritised implementing systems to protect female workers on their tea estates. They have implemented a number of industry leading measures, such as:

  • A higher level of human and financial resources dedicated to the cause: our partner farms report considerable increases in their operational costs year on year directed to improve their systems of prevention and remediation of sexual violence.
  • Grievance and complaints mechanisms available for workers via multiple channels (letters, HR, trade union, worker committees, hotline), including independent human rights experts handling and monitoring any case related to sexual violence or any other Human Rights violation.
  • Certification on third-party audited ethical frameworks, such as the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade
  • Collaboration, knowledge exchange and transparency with various organisations and people outside of the company (e.g. Ethical Tea Partnership, Ethical Trading Initiatiave, United Nations, Oxfam and local NGOs).

Paying growers higher prices

Paying tea growers higher prices for tea ensures the sustainability of those gardens and provides them with additional capital to invest in the programs and structures to stop violence against women. Here’s how it works:

  1. Tea is bought both directly and in auctions. Our partner, the tea trader Thopmson Lloyd & Ewart agrees and pays on behalf of Typhoo.
  2. The price per kg for Fear Free Tea is higher than the price we typically paid for the old Typhoo.
  3. We know that we pay more than many other tea brands. This is partly because higher quality tea comes at a higher cost. Plus these particular producers’ prices are higher than other producers, which is to be expected, given there are higher assurances and better quality systems for workers’ welfare. The prices on our forward agrements are above market price.
  4. While we know for sure that our additional funds are dedicated to the protection of women, we cannot guarantee our higher price will be dedicated expressly to issues related to our mission, since there are all operational costs related to the production of tea to consider. It is key to guarantee the business continuity of those producers who are achieving the greatest progress on our shared goal, considering the current challenges of the tea market (oversupply, low prices, climate change, increasing operational costs) that is pushing tea estates around the world to close down, be sold or turn to full mechanisation.

Investing to make women safe

On top of market prices, Typhoo dedicates additional funds to programmatic gaps on each tea plantation, specifically dedicated to the protection of women. These funds are spent funding activities and resources for the prevention and remediation of sexual violence and other human rights violations, such as:

  1. Training and Awareness for tea pickers, managers, worker representatives and smallholder farmers in subjects such as:
    – Prevention and remediation of sexual harassment
    – Female leadership and mentorship
    – Gender equality
    – Healthy living
    – Human rights awareness (know-your-rights)
    – Identification and reporting of abuse
    – ETI basecode
    – Community civic education with regard to gender equality and sexual harassment
  2. Remediation through a complaint system of grievance mechanisms available to tea workers. This needs support for functioning on elements such as:
    – human rights specialists
    – lawyers
    – paralegals
    – Counsellors
    – Clinicians
    – Support to local police stations
    – Referrals to government hospital
    – Funding for transport of victim-survivors as well as government officials
  3. Research and Data Collection among workers of all levels, smallholder farmers and surrounding tea communities. This may be carried out by the plantation’s social welfare and gender equality managers or by independent organisms.

No RA logo

We still require our producer partners to belong to some ethical scheme and go through third-party social audits, as part of Typhoo’s compliance and due diligence. However, they are free to follow a framework of their choice – Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, SA8000 or SMETA. Typhoo’s strategic shift in ethical sourcing, with a laser-focus on the safety of women tea workers, prompts the choice to not have the Rainforest Alliance (RA) seal on our product packaging. We recognize the broad scope of ethical certifications, such as RA, spanning environmental and social issues, leads to positive impacts – but those are fragmented when it comes to Typhoo’s pivotal goal of addressing violence against women on tea estates. Social audits, intrinsic to many certifications, often fall short in identifying instances of violence and harassment. Our commitment to a comprehensive, beyond-the-audit approach is integral to guaranteeing the protection of women. By fostering enduring relationships with farms devoted to reducing and remediating violence, we prioritize flexibility over certification constraints. This approach acknowledges the complexity of the issue, steering away from demanding perfection from tea growers in favour of practical, supportive solutions. Plus, the financial resources tied to Typhoo maintaining RA certification are redirected towards our key mission. We will design and fund targeted initiatives directly with our partner farms, thanks to our direct relationship with them and our expertise on the topic of the protection of women. We remain open to collaboration with other tea brands sourcing from the same producers. This method allows the agenda to always have the producer’s interest prevailing, rather than being pushed by third parties.

Brits drink 100 million cups of tea a day

We found this statistic on the https://www.tea.co.uk/tea-faqs website and have quoted this statistic has been quoted from ITC (the International Tea Committee).