KENYA – Rainforest Alliance has lifted the suspension of the trade licenses of James Finlays and Ekaterra Tea, allowing the multinational tea firms to resume the sale of their products in international markets.
The Rainforest Alliance is a product-oriented multistakeholder governance group championing sustainable practices among companies, farmers, foresters, communities, and consumers.
The international non-governmental organization blocked the two firms on May 9 from accessing the international market over what it termed as a failure to conform to the social and management criteria.
The independent investigation was launched by the Rainforest Alliance following an exposé by BBC Africa on how women in tea firms are sexually assaulted for work in Kenya.
In a statement, the international organization said the removal of the ban was due to “corrective actions implemented by the owners”.
“The companies have taken action to close the identified non-conformities…Rainforest Alliance maintained close communication with both the certificate holders and their parent companies throughout this process,” read the statement in part.
“From this time, tea produced and sold by both Ekaterra Tea and James Finlay can once again be sold as Rainforest Alliance certified.”
The BBC Eye documentary revealed widespread sexual abuse of women by senior managers in exchange for work opportunities at two tea estates owned by UK firms James Finlay & Company and Unilever — which has since sold its brands to CVC Capital Partners.
“For both tea estates, the audits confirmed the presence of non-conformities of the social and management criteria of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
Based on these results, we have decided to suspend the certifications of both certificate holders, per the Rainforest Alliance’s Certification and Auditing Rules V1.2. The certificate holders in question have been notified, as per the rules of our program,” stated the Alliance in a statement during the suspension.
Rainforest Alliance has once again expressed its commitment to ensuring there are no cases of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in global supply chains.
The safety and well-being of women and of all workers, it says, is an integral part of our certification program and its mission at large.
James Finlay Kenya is also faced with litigation from its Kenyan workers who have sued the company in a Scottish court for multi-million-pound damages.
Up to 2,000 employees claim they suffered injuries due to working conditions at James Finlay Kenya Ltd and they want compensation from the business as they say bosses there didn’t do enough to prevent them from suffering debilitating workplace injuries.
Many of the workers claim they suffered “musculoskeletal injuries” because of working conditions at the company.
At a previous hearing, pickers detailed that they were routinely asked to work up to 12 hours a day without a break, for six days a week, earning in 2017 an average monthly wage of £100.
The hearing also heard evidence that pickers had to harvest a minimum of 30kg (4st 10lb) of tea to be paid anything at all.