Japan’s ITO EN was named last week to “The Fortune 2016 Change the World List”, the magazine’s annual list of companies demonstrating “significant progress in sustainable, scalable approaches to address social problems as a core business strategy.” ITO EN was #18 on the list.
The magazine cited the company’s Program for Revitalizing Tea-Growing Regions, an enterprise to revitalize the hundreds of thousands of acres of abandoned tea gardens and put tea workers back on the job.
“It has been a priority for us to help nurture tea farmers and revitalize idle agricultural land. With this commitment we are seeing a renaissance in young people enjoying tea,” said Rona Tison, Senior Vice President Corporate Relations, ITO EN (North America).
“ITO EN has always taken pride in procuring only tea leaves that we can ensure its origin and sustainable farming practices,” she said.
As the population ages, Japan’s farm sector has struggled, leading to the abandonment of 400,000 hectares of tea. The magazine praised ITO EN’s partnership with regional farmers and governments to stimulate local economies by bringing technological assistance to revitalize these dormant farms, develop sustainable procurement practices, and nurture a new generation of tea farmers as old farmers retire.
“Creating shared value and enhancing the sustainability of our society and environment lies at the very heart of our business. Our commitment and initiatives are long term, as we strive for positive change in the world,” said Tison.
The magazine also noted that ITO EN annually transforms 49,000 tons of used tea leaves from its beverage production operation into 50 million cardboard boxes used by the company. During the past decade, ITO EN has developed more than 30 recycled products in partnership with companies manufacturing building materials, vending machines, benches, and household goods.
Companies are ranked annually based on the three criteria of measurable social impact, business results, and degree of innovation. Other food and beverage companies making the list include Nestlé, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, PepsiCo, Compass Group, Starbucks, and Heineken.