This strategic pillar focuses on our approach to securing sustainable supply chains outside of our coffee products – everything from our Espresso Warehouse products; to coffee machines; to the products we use internally for our operations. Here, we take a closer look at one of our tea supply chains, our recycling partnership with BRITA, and, the progress that has been made on packaging innovations.

A Visit to Beau-tea-ful Kenya

Our procedures for auditing and meeting with our first-tier Espresso Warehouse suppliers provide the guarantees we need that our sustainability standards are being met throughout our supply chains. However, 2019 presented an opportunity to see, first-hand, the operations of one of our upstream suppliers, James Finlay Kenya, a supplier to Finlays who produce our range of bespoke Pavilion Garden teas. It was fantastic to see the extent of their social and environmental programmes, as well as the impact of Fairtrade certification on the community.

James Finlay Kenya is located south-west of Kericho town in western Kenya. The high altitudes and significant rainfall levels here have earned Kericho the title the “bathroom of God” by locals. The climate is perfect for tea-growing and the bright green fields stretch as far as they eye can see when standing amongst the 10,300 hectares of bushes. Beyond the estates, the company has a 15-year partnership with the Finlays Tea Growers Cooperative Union, which has circa 8,000 farmer members. These small-scale tea farmers produce Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified tea which they deliver for processing at the estate factories.

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How does James Finlay Kenya have a positive socio-economic impact?

Looking after the wellbeing of workers and their families living on the estates is a key priority. Medical care, schooling and water provision are all part of the basic remuneration provided and the company has also implemented targeted support, such as helping households to implement kitchen gardens, encouraging families to grow and eat more fruit and vegetables and improve their nutrition. Furthermore, an electrification project has ensured all 5,651 on-site households have access to fairly priced, reliable electricity, which they can pay for using mobile credit.

Across their operations, James Finlay Kenya have developed a focus on gender equality and have partnered with IDH on two initiatives. The first aims to equip women with technical skills commonly needed in the industry through offering a two-year apprenticeship programme. The second is a nine-month leadership course for their female employees, aiming to tackle the underrepresentation of women in management roles. More information about the impact of the programme is available in the above video.

“We take gender empowerment very seriously, we even have a Gender Empowerment Officer who is responsible for leading this effort, for example making sure women have access to the skills and knowledge that they need. I recently graduated with some of my colleagues from our Women in Leadership Training!”

Dorothy Mukio, Manager of Kaporet Estate

(pictured right, next to her colleague Lilian, Assistant Manager)

How do workers here benefit from the Fairtrade premium?

  • Maize is purchased by the Fairtrade joint body using premium funds. The maize is then sold to workers at cost plus storage charges when there is less available locally and the market price starts to escalate.
  • The provision of books for students and the school libraries.
  • The supply of sanitary towels to school girls.
  • Help for physically challenged or disabled children in the community on a case by case basis.

How do James Finlay Kenya manage their environmental impact?

Their goal is to have a renewable energy supply that is completely self-sufficient by 2030. They are already well on their way to achieving this as their five hydropower stations supply 50% of their energy requirements. They also set up a biodigestor four years ago which produces energy from the waste materials from the Saosa extraction factory, and they have solar panels which power some of the tea processing facilities and the rope transport system which brings the picked tealeaves in from the fields.

Through careful crop rotation, the estate maintains 3,000 Ha of forestry alongside the tea estates. The trees provide fuel wood for the estate, avoiding any temptation for workers to harvest the 1,200 Ha of indigenous forest for fire wood. Beyond this, James Finlay Kenya has been a leading member of the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes-Kenya (ISLA) in South West Mau. The goal of the programme is for 60,000 Ha of forest to be conserved by 2030 and Finlays has been working towards this through their own planting programme and donating seedlings to various community groups. To instil these principles in the community, school children are taught about the importance of protecting the environment and are actively involved in the tree planting programme.

At the household level, fuel efficient stoves are being supplied to workers and their families. These new stoves offer a 40-60% saving on fuel wood compared to the traditional cooking methods, demonstrating a significant carbon reduction.

For more information, see Finlays' 2019 Sustainability Report here.

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Boosting Recycling with Brita

Water filtration is incredibly important for hospitality operators. It improves the taste and appearance of drinks as well as helping to keep beverage equipment in peak condition, preventing premature machine breakdowns. To this end, we are pleased to work with BRITA in providing the right filter for each of our customers’ needs.

Another key success of the partnership has been our recycling of the cartridges. In 2019 we returned 87% of all BRITA cartridges used for recycling, equating to over 20,000 KG of plastic waste being diverted from landfill.

Watch this short video by BRITA Professional, to learn more about recycling cartridges.

An Update on Packaging

2019 marked the commencement of a review of our packaging across our product portfolio, including our own, and third-party, brands.

Though the materials available for packaging do still provide some limitations, there has also been some excellent innovations over 2019-20. Here are some of the improvements that we have seen:

  • SUKI TEA made excellent strides in removing plastic from their products, including replacing their plastic pyramid teabags, inner retail bags and large foodservice bags with compostable plastic-free alternatives. Full details of these changes are explained in this article by Oscar Woolley, Co-Founder and Commercial Director at SUKI.
  • DaVinci Syrups redesigned their plastic bottles, reducing their plastic content by 40%.
  • Island Bakery removed the plastic sleeves from inside their cases, replacing these with cardboard dividers to help ensure the products were not damaged during transit.
  • Peppersmith Mints removed the plastic wrap from outside the packs, ensuring their packs are now completely plastic-free.