When we purchase tea or coffee, many of us like to make sure our delicious beverage was produced with fair and ethical standards. Much of the tea we drink is imported, and it can be difficult to know if you are supporting companies with good standards, or companies who mistreat employees or dodge ethical practices. With words like “fair,” “ethical,” and “alliance” tossed around on virtually every package, it can be difficult to determine what each label means. In this article, we aim to help you understand the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), and how it differs from the popular Fairtrade label, found on everything from chocolate and tea to coffee.

Ethical Tea Partnership

Understanding the Ethical Tea Partnership

The ETP focuses on three sustainability programmes: monitoring and certification, producer support and strategic sustainability. These three programmes are instituted in an effort to improve the lives of those who work on the farms, as well as the environment. This non-profit is funded by public funds and grants, along with subscriptions and fees, so that producers never have to pay. Members can be from Europe, Australia, North America and New Zealand, whether large or small brands.

To date, about 50 brands in over 100 countries are part of the Ethical Tea Partnership. One of the main differences between ETP and some of the other labels we often see, is how they assist the producers. When farms are sustainable, they are better for the environment and produce less waste. In turn, this can lead to fair prices and competitive products. ETP works with producers in order to help them practice sustainable farming methods. Their programs are currently helping those in China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Papa New Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Burundi, Brazil, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania.

How Fair Trade Differs

It’s important to know that while the Ethical Tea Partnership improves conditions for workers indirectly, and has well-meaning goals for both workers and the environment, it is not the same as Fair Trade. Without Fair Trade, farmers and workers could still be at risk for not getting their fair share of wages, regardless of the assistance provided by the ETP. Whenever you see the mark of FAIRTRADE, you should know that this means the producers of the product are guaranteed the right to join a union, decent wages and work within a set of specific safety standards.

Fair Trade International

Fairtrade, just as its name states, oversees more of the trade process, while the ETP oversees more of the environmental impact which can indirectly affect producers. A majority of the products carrying the Fairtrade label have a minimum set price, which helps keep the markets stable and beneficial to producers, while ensuring enough money is made to continue sustainable practices. They also have a number of programs that allow the product sale to benefit the producer. For example, an additional sum is often paid to producers in order to invest in their communities. Fairtrade items contain an added premium as well, that goes directly into a fund for the producers to improve their own conditions, whether social or environmental. Often, this money is invested in education, healthcare and other areas to improve the lives of workers directly.

In addition to the differences already described, Fairtrade also applies to items like cotton, plants, and even sports balls. The certification for the ETP is usually viewed as easier to obtain than Fairtrade. In 2010, however, they did begin recognizing a Fairtrade certification.

What To Look For

Because the two certifications are so drastically different, it depends on what is most important to the consumer. If environmental causes are close to your heart, the Ethical Tea Partnership may provide you with enough peace of mind to sip your delicious affordable tea. If you are looking to ensure that the ripple effects of your purchases are as humane as possible, look for the Fairtrade certification.

Both the Ethical Tea Partnership and Fairtrade are worth considering when choosing tea.

It’s worth noting that the ETP does aim its mission to assist with human rights, social issues and sustainability, but the way it’s enforced often makes Fairtrade a more suitable fit for those who support solutions to social issues. ETP enforces a majority of its programmes through auditing, monitoring and certification. At no charge to the producer, the ETP assesses everything from social issues to sustainability. The problem with these audits is that management is informed ahead of time, allowing many business to hide less than satisfactory practices. Because workers may fear retaliation from management, it’s difficult to expect the truth to be brought forward. It’s important to realize, however, that the ETP’s intentions are to improve these issues and not cause the harm that can occur with the label at times. Better enforcement and cooperation is needed to ensure farmers in the future see the ETP as a partner rather than an added burden.

Overall, when you are sourcing tea the choice is yours, based on the values important to you.

You can read more at the ETP website and Fairtrade website at these links :