LONDON, England – Thursday, February 13, 2014, Forum for the Future brought together a panel of industry leaders from Unilever, Finlays, the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative – to discuss the opportunities from and the challenges facing the industry. Many more Tea 2030 partners and interested parties were in attendance, making up over 150 people.
Discussing The Future of Tea, A Hero Crop for 2030, from left: Sally Uren, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Ron Mathison, Sarah Roberts, and Jordy Van Honk. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Forum for the Future
The panel discussion consisted of:
Sally Uren – CEO, Forum for the Future Pier Luigi Sigismondi – Chief Supply Chain Officer, Unilever Ron Mathison – Group MD, James Finlays Ltd Sarah Roberts – Executive Director, Ethical Tea Partnership Jordy Van Honk – Senior Tea Programme Manager, IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative)
The evening opened with a statement from Sally Uren. She discussed the importance of collaboration within the tea sector and her hope for the Tea 2030 initiative to drive action in the industry through the three collaboration platforms of sustainable landscapes, market mechanisms and engaging the consumer.
The focus was on four industry-leading speakers, who all took five minutes to reflect on their experiences in the Tea 2030 partnership to date. Pier Luigi Sigismondi opened with a focus on Tea 2030’s unique cross-sector collaboration. “This initiative is important as it allows us to have a platform to talk about the challenges, both environmental and social, which are very complex. We cannot tackle these alone; it is only through critical mass and collaboration that we can tackle these one by one.”
Next up was Ron Mathison who reinforced Luigi’s earlier statement and highlighting the challenges facing the tea industry, “different factors affect different people throughout the value chain; it is important that we understand all these different interconnected issues.”
Sarah Roberts emphasised the history of work the industry has undertaken, defining ‘waves of engagement’ with the sector, from the earliest stages of certification to concern around sustainability and the social and economic factors of developing, tea-producing nations. Tea 2030 represents the 4th wave, and engagement with consumers. “Where there has been hardly any collaboration is on the consumer end so this emerging platform is significant.”
Last to speak was Jordy van Honk. His message focused on the partnership between the public and private sector. Jordy reinforced that governments have a belief in the private sector’s capability to address the surrounding issues and that going forward these partnerships ought to be central to developing sustainable tea. “My ambition for tea 2030 is to include local government even more.”
The panel then accepted insightful questions from the audience, including:
“Where do you see the tea 2030 partnership in 5 years’ time?
Ron Mathison mentioned the importance of understanding the different issues at all levels of the industry and Tea 2030’s role as a larger collaborative platform. “What I am hoping is that Tea 2030 becomes an umbrella platform for broad-based collaboration in the industry.” Pier Luigi Sigismondi focused on Unilever’s specific desires to resolve socio-economic issues such as women’s rights. “There are huge endemic issues in Africa, India with say women’s rights. There is nothing we can do individually, we must build critical mass. That is my dream – that in 5 years’ time there will be platform for their voice.” Sarah Roberts responded by focusing on a wider view of tea production, citing the need to “scale up” the current work across the whole industry. Jordy Van Honk focused on the importance of helping smallholders to be more resilient and more sustainable.…
“How do you guarantee the continuing value of tea for producers?”
Ron Mathison and Pier Luigi Sigismondi spoke about guaranteeing stability of purchasing for farmers . Sarah Roberts reiterated the importance of market mechanisms that guarantee a fair price. Jordy Van Honk focused on the making the farms themselves better equipped to support themselves. “We must also give farmers the tools to be more adaptable, not necessarily for tea but for the farm as a whole.”
“How do you take consumers on the journey, how do you get consumer to value this hero crop?”
Pier Luigi Sigismondi opened this discussion stating that it was hard and there was still much work to be done. Sally Uren focused on the positives, commenting that data produced by Sainsbury’s suggests that even in times of economic downturn “values and where things come from matter” toconsumers. Ron Mathison, however, came from a different angle, “Consumers have been trained to be promiscuous. We need to train them back. I would like to see more work from the retailers and from the brands taking the lead. Unilever is taking the lead, we need people to step forward and take the lead.”
Sally raised the final question of the night. “What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned from Tea 2030 to date?”
Jordy Van Honk:“Looking at the future and working the scenarios are fun. It has offered us some really new insights” Sarah Roberts: “Working with the people from outside of the sector was the most interesting. There does need to be radical change in the sector. There is so much change in the countries where tea is produced and we maybe need to be geared up for that so that does become a positive thing. Ron Mathison: “The key thing is more engagement with local governments, local communities.” Pier Luigi Sigismondi: “This is just the end of the beginning, the foundation of good talk and good ideas. Frankly speaking there is a challenge here, we need to understand the value of critical mass and ensure there is a platform here we can all benefit from. It’s up to us to make it happen.”
In closing, Sally summed up the event by proposing that Tea 2030’s success will be measured on its ability to deliver Transparency, Engagement and Action (TEA) across the industry.