Premier Brands & Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) & Ridgways Fairtrade Teas : LUSENET : Ethical Consumerism - UK : One Thread

I received the following letter from Premier Brands (manufacturer of among many others Ty-phoo tea)

I will add my comments in another posting.

2nd June 1998

Dear Mr Towell,

I thought you might be interested to know of developments in ethical sourcing since we wrote to you last year.

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)

The ETI is a ground-breaking collaboration between companies, trade unions and campaigning groups, formed with the objective of agreeing minimum standards and monitoring procedures for sourcing from developing countries. The founding members include Sainsbury's, Oxfam, the Fairtrade Foundation and ourselves, but the membership will comprise most food retailers and relevant NGO groups. The ETI is supported and majority-funded by the Department for International Development.

Our involvement is a direct result of our successful tea supplier monitoring programme (QAP), which is recognised as one of very few ethical sourcing initiatives in the UK food industry.

Ridgways Fairtrade Teas

Since 1992 we have received a large number of enquiries concerning Typhoo and the Fairtrade Mark. Whilst we apply strict criteria in selecting suppliers for Typhoo blend components, and have harmonised the ethical elements of these criteria with those of the Fairtrade Foundation, there is no immediate prospect of Typhoo carrying the Fairtrade Mark.

The Mark is designed to benefit smaller growers, and involves the payment of a 'social premium' over and above the normal tea price, as well as setting minimum social standards. The number of approved producers on the Fairtrade Foundation register is quite small, and it is therefore not possible to produce a high volume tea brand exclusively from these sources.

In view of the high level of interest in the Fairtrade Mark we have decided to produce two products under our Ridgways brand name; Ridgways Fairtrade Tea and Ridgways Fairtrade Organically Grown Tea. The new products are blended exclusively from factories on the Fairtrade Foundation register, but we have also worked with the selected suppliers in order to produce higher quality blends than those traditionally associated with Fairtrade Mark products. This process of joint product development will continue as part of our continuous improvement philosophy.

As you would expect, we have visited all the suppliers whose tea we use in these blends, as well as them being approved by the Fairtrade Foundation. In most cases we use additional tea produced by them in other blends, including Typhoo, which means that we are able to give substantial buying support over and above the specific volume that we buy for Ridgways. Wherever possible these purchases are made in the context of long-term supply contracts designed to be of benefit to both parties.

The two blends are different in character, but both of a standard which we are happy to associated with the Ridgways brand. Please try them, and encourage your friends to do so. They will be available in most major supermarkets from early June.

Other developments

We continue to refine and extend the scope of our supplier monitoring programme, with the long-term objective of achieving 100% coverage of tea suppliers; we anticipate that we will reach 75% by the end of this year and 90% by the end of 1999. We are also making particular effort to include small-scale producers and smallholder organisations in our plans. Our active involvement in ETI will allow us to share information and experience with other participants, and in particular we hope to have access to NGO/union expertise at a local level in the countries from which we source tea.

We are starting to look at other commodities in our portfolio such as coffee and cocoa, but these industries are structured very differently and therefore we cannot simply transfer our tea expertise and monitoring systems.

I hope you find the above of interest. If you require any further clarification or information please do not hesitate to contact either me or my colleague Peter Barry, Overseas Development Manager.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Mumby
Buying Director
Premier Brands UK Limited, PO Box 8, Moreton, Wirral, Merseyside L46 8XF

-- James Towell (, June 09, 1998


I am interested in the standard that Typhoo has adopted. The name generally used for this standard is "ethical sourcing", and I see it as becoming the new level for all businesses to aim at.

The whole world cannot run on Fair Trade lines because the market premium makes this even theoretically impossible. However it is possible to completely run by ethically sourcing. And what a much better world it would be!

The Fairtrade Foundation has brought the justice-in-trade issue to the public's notice by using a standard symbol and by publishing its standards. I have heard of no criticism of Fairtrade in even the least reputable of the country's press.

The publicity is essential as it shows people that the trade issues are being addressed in a practical way, and it shows businesses that adopting the Fairtrade standard is a profitable way of responding to consumer demand.

Organisations that adopt an "ethical sourcing" policy can suffer in the press as has Premier Brands before and C&A. How can they adopt such a code AND publicise it? We want other businesses to be able to say "We can adopt that standard too".

Is there a case for an independent "ethical sourcing" standard?

-- James Towell (, June 10, 1998.

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