In conversation with Suranga Herath is CEO of English Tea Shop
Q.Brief Background of the Company and what makes it sustainable?
A.English Tea Shop is a specialty organic tea brand which works with only the finest organic and Fairtrade farmers from all over the world to produce a special range of teas. It was founded on the principles of Creating Shared Value (CSV), a concept pioneered by Harvard Professor Michael Porter. CSV is about achieving competitive advantage through a steadfast dedication to sustainable development, and creating value both for the business, and for the world at large.
CSV is about win-win situations. Putting the principles of CSV at the heart of all we do means we share value throughout our supply chain from seed to cup. This creates a robust link between our farmers, our employees, and those who ultimately enjoy our tea. Using the principles of CSV, we aspire to continually improve society and the environment in a way that results in a competitive advantage for English Tea Shop.
Our unique and innovative Creating Shared Value model focuses on achieving economic, social and environmentally sustainable outcomes by empowering our supplier communities and our own team of 400+ business people. Our model also works to improve the lives of over 3,000 farming families in Sri Lanka and worldwide.
Q.How has your brand journey been so far? How has the journey with Fairtrade sourcing been so far?
A. Our mission is to make organic farming an attractive and profitable business. We achieve this by guaranteeing that our minimum prices are always well over Fairtrade minimum prices and market prices. Growth in terms of Fairtrade Premiums has increased 30% year on basis for the last three years and the percentage of Fairtrade SKU’s on the core range will be increased to 20% from current 10%.
Last year we sponsored 44 farmers to obtain Fairtrade certification by spending over €2,500 in farms in Morawaka, Sri Lanka. During the year, the total number of Fairtrade farmers we worked with grew from 730 to 842.
Q.When it comes to creating a brand awareness for your Fairtrade tea what are the main challenges and concerns of consumers?
A.Fairtrade has achieved a lot to make consumers stop, consider and care where their food, drink, clothes and jewellery comes from. Inspired by Fairtrade, and consumer demand for ethically sourced products, there is an emerging trend for manufacturers to develop their own sustainable sourcing models, even the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s are following suit. From experience, a proactive commitment to sustainable sourcing is to be applauded, setting up an entirely new sourcing model – and doing it well – is no mean feat. I speak from experience of converting English Tea Shop to run on a Creating Shared Value model throughout our supply chain from seed to cup. The impact of creating and implementing our own sourcing model has been profound not only for the farmers but for our business and all those in our community.
Q.What do you do to promote Fairtrade?
A.English Tea Shop ensures to promote Fairtrade in all correspondence to media, ensuring to amplify our partnership where possible. As well as this, all our packaging carries the Fairtrade logo, communicating our strong partnership to consumers.
Q.Do you see a trend in consumer awareness and preferences for ethically sourced products? What factors do you think are important to consumers when buying tea?
A.Consumers are becoming much more ethically conscious nowadays and from day one, this has very much been a strong focus for English Tea Shop and one we are always striving to highlight to our consumers.
Consumers are becoming much more ethically conscious nowadays and from day one, this has very much been a strong focus for English Tea Shop and one we are always striving to highlight to our consumers.
Currently, over 80% of items we use are compostable or multi-use and recyclable. Our aim at English Tea Shop is to increase this by 5% year on year.
Q.In terms of quality and volume what do you expect from your supply chain partners?
A.From any supply chain partner quality and volume is key, but there are two things that are key for us. At all times we expect our partners to ensure that all our products are consistently premium, something that we are famous for.
Secondly, growth in year on year volumes, consistent with the long-term forecasts we share with our supply chain partners is essential.
Q. How can NAPP extend its support for further strengthening the supply chain?
A.The Network of Asia Pacific Producers should work towards establishing processes and procedures to help farmers drive down costs and enhance efficiencies. Currently, in certain cases, Fairtrade minimum prices are at times below the cost of production.
Q. Are you working with any producer organizations to diversify and strengthen your supply chain?
A. At present we are working with a few producer organizations to help us launch some innovative and exciting NPD for 2020.