Unilever, whose brands include Lipton Tea, says it will begin a tea research and development program that uses plant breeding methods to ensure sustainable tea.
By broadening the natural diversity of tea plants to enhance their productivity, quality and overall sustainability, the project will help “future proof” tea, the company says. This includes growing more tea on less land and reducing agrochemicals. The project also aims to help arrest any decline in tea crop diversity that could limit the crop’s ability to withstand drought, disease and pests in the future.
The project, which is in partnership with Nature Source Genetics, will be initiated within Unilever’s tea gardens in Kenya.
In April 2013, Unilever said it was sourcing more than a third of its agricultural raw materials sustainably, putting the company closer to its target of 100 percent by 2020. Unilever has exceeded the interim milestone of 30 percent it set itself in 2010 when launching its Sustainable Living Plan, which sets a goal for the company to halve its environmental footprint while doubling its size.