An international body has made the stunning announcement that it has suspended the certification of not one, but two, major global tea companies, following a shocking scandal involving sexual abuse in Kenya.
The Rainforest Alliance, a key organization that provides certification for sustainable development products, was driven to launch an investigation after a BBC documentary exposed grotesque allegations of sexual abuse on tea estates in Kenya, a country renowned for being one of the world’s largest tea exporters.
More than 70 women bravely came forward to reveal the widespread sexual abuse they endured at the hands of their supervisors for years.
Shockingly, the horrific incidents included a supervisor raping a 14-year-old girl who lived on plantation sites, as well as many others who fell pregnant or were infected with HIV by their abusers. As a result of these disturbing findings, Rainforest Alliance has suspended the certification for James Finlay (Kenya) Ltd and ekaterra Tea Kenya Plc.
This decision will be initially effective for three months. Accordingly, these companies can no longer sell or ship products with a Rainforest Alliance Certified claim.
The alliance made a statement declaring that “the audits confirmed the presence of non-conformities of the social and management criteria of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard” for both tea estates.
This announcement has grave implications for these major tea companies that have repeatedly touted their sustainability credentials. In the wake of these revelations, both firms undertook to pursue independent investigations into the allegations.
Given the gravity of these findings, Kenyan prosecutors and lawmakers have promised to investigate the accusations, but no legal action has yet been taken.
The documentary highlighted a Kenyan plantation owned at the time by UK household goods behemoth Unilever, as well as James Finlay’s plantation. In response to these disturbing revelations, Rainforest Alliance has vowed to prioritize ending sexual harassment and gender-based violence in all global supply chains.
The safety and well-being of women, and of all workers, is an integral component of the organization’s certification program and its mission more broadly.
While Unilever has recently sold its global tea business ekaterra, including the Lipton and PG Tips brands, for 4.5 billion euros to CVC Capital Partners, Sri Lankan conglomerate Browns Investments has agreed to purchase the James Finlay business in Kenya.
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