In response to BBC story on living and working conditions in Assam. 

14th September 2015

Thank you for your enquiry about the BBC programme, which we really appreciate.

As founding members of the Ethical Tea Partnership, the fair and supportive treatment of tea farmers, workers and their families has always been important to Tetley and Tata Global Beverages.  We invest in and are guided by sustainability standards, such as the Rainforest Alliance certification, to ensure our tea drinkers can enjoy their cuppas knowing they have been sourced in a sustainable and fair way.

We know that a huge amount of change is required to support the many thousands of people who are dependent upon the tea industry for their livelihoods, particularly given many of the places where tea is grown, such as Assam, have high poverty levels and longstanding problems across the region, not just on the tea estates.

As a responsible sourcer of teas, we do what we can to improve the living and working conditions on the tea estates.  This includes founding and providing ongoing funding to the Ethical Tea Partnership who provide direct support on the tea estates themselves.  Recent initiatives include:


- Working with Unicef to install water pumps and latrines in estates across Assam.

- Setting up Farmers Field Schools in Malawi which trains and supports farmers to raise standards on health and safety and safe use of pesticides.

- Entering a major partnership with UNICEF in Assam to work with 350 communities linked to more than 100 tea estates to enable young people to have a brighter future.

- Working with Oxfam to improve wages and benefits across the tea industry.

For further details on the change being supported by the Ethical Tea Partnership in the Assam region, please visit:

In addition to this ongoing support for the Ethical Tea Partnership, we also identify & action direct solutions where we can.  In 2014, issues were raised on living & working conditions in APPL plantations, of which our parent company Tata Global Beverages (TGB) is a shareholder.  Since the concerns were raised, TGB commissioned an independent assessment on the APPL estates and committed to a 5 year development plan that will improve the conditions on the 25 APPL estates.  Progress has already been made with the following actions:

  • Built 12 units of new houses and 191 units of new kitchens with a further 42 units of houses under construction currently.
  • Repairs made to 5982 housing units and 2572 new smokeless ovens have been installed. 
  • Installed 146 new bio toilets, 1051 new latrine units and 250 new bathrooms and repaired 4251 toilet units. 
  • By 2016, a further 1266 new toilets, 1549 new bathrooms and repairs to another 1300 toilets will be completed
  • Provision of 2570 water filters
  • Training & improved personal protection equipment has been provided to all spraying squads on the estates plus wash stations
  • Initiation of forums for the most vulnerable – women & adolescents
  • Training to improve literacy, healthy living practices and financial understanding amongst workers.

For ongoing updates & pictures of the progress being made, please visit:

We are also one of the founding members of the Trustea initiative in India which is a multi-stakeholder initiative led by the Tea Board of India, to sustainably transform the Indian tea industry.  The 5 year programme hopes to have a positive impact on the livelihoods of 500,000 tea plantation workers and 40,000 smallholder farmers by 2017.


We will continue to do all that we can to improve the lives of all who work in the tea industry, particularly the most vulnerable on the tea estates.  But we must continue to do this in a collaborative way, together with networks of partner organisations including development agencies, governmental and non-governmental organisations to address the complex issues in the tea communities and it will take time.    Taking our business away from this area and these estates is not an option, as it would leave the workers without livelihoods or homes.

I cannot emphasise enough our ongoing commitment to sustainability and ethical treatment of our people and I hope this goes some way in reassuring you how important it is to us.