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OTG Ensuring an Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Tea Sector

Ensuring the future of its sector while improving the lives of its workers.

Climate change has a great deal of impact when it comes to the procurement of perishables and consumable products. Tea, for example, is cultivated in subtropical regions like Assam, India, and requires healthy soils, heat, and humidity to grow; with these factors threatened by the effects of climate change there is a growing concern that tea cultivation will soon become impossible in such areas. Additionally, with the rise of a detail-oriented consumer base, the production of tea must occur in a manner that is unequivocally sustainable – environmentally, to ensure the preservation of the industry, and socially to guarantee the protection and dignity of the workers and their communities. Longstanding tea producing business, Ostfriesische Tee Gesellschaft GmbH & Co. KG (OTG), is working to ensure that its processes and partnerships are sustainable.

With over a century of experience in the production and packaging of tea, OTG is familiar with the conditions required for tea growth and observed the effects of climate change first-hand. “Ten years back,” explains OTG Managing Director, Annemarie Leniger of conditions in Assam, “the rainfall pattern was more-or-less defined. We knew each month approximately how much rainfall we were going to receive. But now, with this change in the climate happening and less rainfall being received throughout the year… drought-like situations are arising more and more.” In the face of such environmental challenges, OTG works in partnership with the local workers and infrastructure in the regions where it operates to ensure the sustainability of its product and the manufacture across the value chain. This lowers OTG’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions; ensuring that the company’s continued engagement as part of the tea industry remains environmentally sustainable.

As a family-owned business, OTG understands the importance of a strong community and of empowering the individuals it engages with. Leniger makes this clear, “We, as a family business, want to improve the lives and work of all the workers and their families in the tea business.” The company works closely with groups like the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) and UNICEF to improve the living and working conditions of the producers and farmers who participate in the practical work required for the tea that OTG provides its consumers.

Jenny Costelloe, Executive Director of the Ethical tea Partnership explains, “OTG has been involved in the UNICEF ‘Improving Lives Program’ that trained approximately 35,000 adolescent girls in North India.” Such training provides the knowledge and life skills to make the girls less vulnerable to violence and exploitation in the region. In 2018, the programme was significantly scaled up to encompass adolescent boys, who are also at risk and essential to changing gender norms for the next generation. The impact and subsequent expansion of this program has allowed OTG to contribute to the betterment of 250,000 women, girls and boys across India’s tea communities. 

The challenges facing the tea industry – both environmental and social – are significant. However, with the dedication and work that Ostfriesische Tee Gesellschaft is putting into sustainably optimising its operations and value chain, along with its commitment to improving the lives of its workers on a practical level, a sustainable tea sector grows increasingly achievable; guaranteeing that, years from now, consumers around the world will be able to enjoy a sustainable and ethically sourced cup of tea.



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