Oakland, California-based Numi Organic Tea just launched an app in Google Expeditions that takes viewers on a journey to the company’s Fair Trade growing partners in China. Organic and Fair Trade sourcing have always been the foundation of Numi Tea’s philosophy. Now customers can get an inside look at Numi’s sustainable sourcing practices.
Fair Trade standards are internationally agreed upon standards for sourcing that support improved working conditions, higher prices for commodities for export, and environmental conservation.
Numi works with Fair Trade cooperatives and estates worldwide to source teas and botanicals. Currently, up to 90 percent of Numi’s products bear social certification, most of which is Fair Trade, or it is part of Numi’s in-house Fair Label program. The company wants to ensure that its cultivation and processing partners receive a fair price and are supported in their efforts to produce organically and have the opportunity to thrive.
All of Numi’s Fair Trade certified products are certified within the Flow Cert system. Flow Cert is the implementation body that is responsible for the auditing and oversight of the Fairtrade standards that are held by Fair Trade International. Headquartered in Bonn, Germany, Fairtrade International unified all of the Fair Trade initiatives that emerged in the 1990s, creating one global standard. Oakland, California-based Fair Trade USA upholds the standards for the United States market while Fairtrade International is focused on overseas markets. Both Fair Trade bodies maintain the same standards at the cultivation level but are separate in terms of marketing and raising awareness.
An aspect of Fair Trade practices that Numi values is the implementation of the Fair Trade premium, which is paid by Numi. Jane Franch, Director of Strategic Sourcing & Sustainability at Numi Tea, emphasized that the premium itself, which is a predetermined amount of money that is set by Fair Trade International on an annual basis, is audited by an external auditor yearly. Within the standards there are very detailed rules regarding who pays the premium, to whom it must be paid, and how the bank account must be administered.
The premium is administered by a Fair Trade committee in the country of origin and consists of farmers and workers who were elected by their peers. The committee conducts a needs assessment of the community and then decides how the Fair Trade funds should be allocated.
“[Fair Trade] is a really powerful tool for bringing dollars into those communities and giving them the agency and the support to elect the application of those dollars in the most meaningful way possible for their own community,” said Franch. “When you turn the premium over to the workers and give them the opportunity to have transparent democratic decision making, what emerges are really genuine solutions that affect people on a day-to-day basis.”
Featured in the new Google Expeditions app is the Dazhangshan tea cooperative in Jiangxi County in southeastern China’s Wuyuan province. It is one of Numi’s oldest green tea partners and provides gunpowder and Jasmine green tea, which are grown in several gardens in townships and villages in the area.
In the case of Dazhangshan, Fair Trade funds have been used in support of education as they were allotted to build a dormitory for the children of tea workers and tea farmers. The funds have also gone towards improving Dazhangshan’s organic farming procedures.
Franch has traveled to Asia and met tea farmers and their children. “That human connection is a really important part of how we do business,” she said.
In May, a videography team went to Dazhangshan where they shot footage for the Google Expeditions app, which will allow a user to experience being at the tea farm through virtual reality. The app gives viewers a 360 degree perspective and information about tea cultivation and processing.
Customers can see where their tea is coming from and how their support of Numi positively impacts the world. “We dedicate ourselves to supporting planet, people and pure tea,” said Franch.