Our Sustainability Commitments

Our Sustainability Commitments

Red Rose is committed to sourcing all of its tea sustainably. It’s a huge task that requires us to look at the social, economic and environmental aspects of tea production. These are the three commitments that help to guide our efforts:

Passion for the Leaf

The best leaf comes from the best plantation. In order to give you the best possible leaf, we believe it is important to care for the environment in which it is grown to protect its vitality, and to harness the goodness of the remarkable tea bush.

Our Sustainability Commitments

Committing to Sustainable Policies

Tea has been grown on the Unilever Tea Kenya (UTK) estates in Kericho for 80 years. UTK’s current and future projects reflect this historical commitment. We realize that complete social, environmental and economical sustainability cannot be achieved overnight. Given the scope of this ambition we have to take a step-by-step approach.

As a first step, we have collaborated with the Rainforest Alliance to certify the Tea Gardens in Kericho, Kenya to the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ standards. The Rainforest Alliance is an independent NGO that works with individuals, communities and companies whose livelihoods depend on the land to reduce environmental impacts and increase social and economic benefits. The Rainforest Alliance takes a holistic approach in assessment and certification, verifying that standards and practices are ethical and equitable, environmentally sound and economically viable. Since we buy tea from other suppliers as well, we urge them to become certified too.

We intend to source all our tea bags globally from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ plantations by 2015.

Ensuring Natural Crop Management

We go to great lengths to keep the use of fertilizers to a strict minimum on our Kericho plantations. On fields where no fertilizer is needed, none is used. A wealth of measures are taken to ensure tea-growing is as natural as possible. In all tea-growing areas, following annual checks on soil samples, we only treat those soils and plants in need of fertilizer.

Legume crops such as Mucuna and oats are planted between young tea plants to provide natural “green manure”, weed control and minimize erosion until the tea bushes have grown to cover the soil themselves.

In the Kericho area there are currently no significant pests or disease needing treatment, so no pesticides are being used within the tea garden.

Conserving Soil

The problem of soil erosion can be widespread in the tropics.

But planting a high density of plants per hectare, as UTK has done in Kericho tea garden, helps prevent soil erosion. In the Kericho tea garden, there is an average density of 12,000 tea plants per hectare.

In the new tea areas, soil conservation is carried out via system of terraces, micro-catchments, oats planted at the tea edges, and mulching covering. These preventative methods mean there is no significant soil erosion.

Our Sustainability Commitments

Love for the people

People play a vital role in sustainable agriculture, whether they form part of the workforce, the government or the local community. Healthy, well educated people are assets to growers and vital for the sustainable development of a nation. UTK Limited provides some 17,000 jobs, making it probably the largest single employer in Kenya’s private sector.

Safety at Work

In order to maintain very high levels of safety at work, we run an on-going training program for all employees. These training programs are aimed at reducing or preventing the risk of accidents or occupational disease in the workplace.

Conclusive proof of the training and communications systems’ efficiency was demonstrated recently when every single Kericho Tea Garden worker interviewed by the Rainforest Alliance was able to correctly explain the procedures to prevent accidents and occupational diseases.

Strengthening Community Ties

It is essential for a sustainable certified plantation to interact positively with neighbours, surrounding communities and local interest groups.

UTK contributes to cost of the local infrastructure, providing areas and buildings for 39 nurseries, 19 primary schools and 2 secondary schools. It runs a hospital, medical centres and 31 dispensaries. UTK donates native trees for planting by neighbouring communities, local institutions, and schools.

The company also offers contracts to over 300 contractors and about 250 suppliers from within the community who run shops within the various company estates and factory units. This is a great step towards alleviating poverty in the rural community within the area surrounding the tea gardens.

Through Sustainable agriculture, we aim to make sure that everybody benefits.

Respect for the Environment

We’ve been in the business long enough to know that nature is our greatest asset. Without providing the conditions for sustainable agriculture, we know we’d lose that asset. That’s why we take our water and energy supplies so seriously. It’s also why we go to such great lengths to conserve biodiversity on our estates.

Managing Waste

We endeavour to ecologically recycle waste from our production site.

In Kericho in Kenya, measures have been taken to collect and sort the waste from the housing areas. Recyclable wastes e.g. plastics are taken by an agent for recycling. Waste from tea factories comes exclusively from the tea produced and so is put back into the land where it is used as organic fertilizer.

Our Sustainability Commitments

Conserving Ecosystems and Protecting Wildlife

We consider it a duty not only to protect natural ecosystems but also to bring balance back to damaged ones. We grow our tea with the utmost respect for local wildlife and biodiversity.

In Kericho, UTK owns a lush indigenous forest that borders the Kiptetan River. We contribute to the protection of this natural habitat and its biodiversity by planting over 69 different native species of tree in our reforesting program named “Tree 2000 Program”. By August 2007, UTK had planted half a million trees! A UTK employee helps take care of the monkeys that roam freely here, such as the Vervet. Thanks to these actions, the forest is home to endangered species such as the Colobus monkey.

Saving water resources

UTK keeps to the natural rain cycle, thereby avoiding irrigation.

Due to its proximity to Lake Victoria, the tea garden of Kericho benefits from the natural cloud formation caused by evaporation of the lakes waters. These clouds provide all the rainfall the tea garden needs.

In order to help preserve this precious natural cycle of rainfall, we are working to preserve and reforest riparian strips bordering the rivers in its tea gardens. This contributes to preserving the natural percolation of water into the rivers which flow into Lake Victoria.