Tea is the world’s second most popular drink, next to water, with an ancient heritage dating back 5,000 years. Between 1993 and 2010, the global consumption of tea jumped by 60%. Today, India and China are the largest producers and consumers of tea. India, China, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Indonesia account for over 75% of the tea exports in the world. According to the UK Tea & Infusions Association
, around 165 million cups of tea are drunk in the UK each year alone.
The tea industry is a major global employer and millions of farmers and workers around the world depend on tea for their living. China has 80 million tea growers, India has an estimated million permanent tea workers and double the number of seasonal tea labourers, while tea supports the livelihoods of an estimated three million people in Kenya. Unlike coffee and cocoa, most of the tea is grown in large plantations and millions of hired plantation workers live in the plantations. The exception is Kenya where 60% of the tea produced is from small-scale farmers.
The industry faces unprecedented challenges and an uncertain future. It is grown in countries most vulnerable to climate change, it faces competition for land, as well as higher costs of energy and water. The industry also faces a number of social challenges such as exploitation of workers. Global tea markets suffer from oversupply and resulting volatile commodity prices are compounded by continually changing consumer habits and trade patterns driven by cost.
We understand how important a great cup of tea is for our customers and for 40 years we have worked with one single expert supplier to responsibly source the best tasting and quality tea from tea gardens around the world.
Commitments and targets
We want to lead our sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity.
Our goal is to ensure that all the tea we sell both in store and in our M&S Cafés is Fairtrade certified
. We are also committed to building resilient supply chain communities by investing in programmes which build livelihoods, protect the environment and improve wellbeing.
Tea is very important to M&S. We sell the equivalent of 400 million cups of tea each year and our M&S Gold Label product is award-winning. We source all our tea through one expert supplier who we’ve worked with for 40 years. They source from tea gardens on our behalf and blend the teas for the range we have on offer in our stores and M&S Cafés. We source from a number of locations including India, Kenya and Malawi. Whilst we don’t source from these locations directly we have developed close relationships with many of our growers. We regularly visit these locations to understand how we can contribute to a sustainable future for our tea growers and their workers in partnership with our main supplier, The Fairtrade Foundation
, and other leading stakeholders.
In 2006, we became the first retailer to source only Fairtrade certified
tea across all of our range of products. This commitment means that our growers receive over £400,000 a year in Fairtrade
premiums which go to a communal fund for workers and farmers to use.
Our approach to sourcing tea more responsibly is as follows: