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Tea Industry Sets the Standard for Social Responsibility and Sustainable Growt


A view of a tea plantation at Kerito Tea Estate in Nyamira County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

As the tea industry looks toward the future, the potential for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) impacts to drive sustainable growth and build a more resilient community around the large tea estates is immense. By focusing on environmental sustainability, such as promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable land management practices, the industry can safeguard the natural resources that are the foundation of its success. Additionally, the industry aims to model environmental stewardship among private and public actors and has in this regard partnered with the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes ISLA by The Sustainable Trade Initiative - IDH which is steering restoration efforts in the South West Mau Forest ecosystem.On the social front, initiatives that prioritize community engagement, empowerment of women and youth, and investment in education and healthcare can create a more inclusive and equitable society. By promoting good governance practices, transparency, and accountability, the tea industry can build trust with stakeholders, enhance regulatory compliance, and ensure long-term viability.

As the 3rd largest producer of tea globally and a top tea exporter, Kenyan tea has the potential to play a bigger role in setting industry standards for social responsibility and sustainable growth. Nurturing of communities and fostering sustainable development goes beyond the cultivation of tea leaves; and large-scale tea producers, are setting the tone and emerging as a beacon of social responsibility by creating value that goes beyond the boundaries of tea estates.

So far, the contributions to the local communities are nothing short of transformative. With 55-89% of local residents employed by these estates, we are not just a source of livelihood but a pillar of economic stability for thousands of families. The employment of these residents by the large producers injects over Kshs 6.4 billion in payroll earnings per annum, not only uplifting households but also fueling local businesses and spurring economic growth in the region.

For instance, over Kshs 1.8 billion is paid annually through procurement of goods and services from local businesses by the tea producers and this not only creates economic opportunities but also nurtures a culture of collaboration and partnership that benefits all stakeholders.

Beyond financial contributions, engagements with local governments has been ongoing and resulted in long-term voluntary arrangement to support infrastructure development and boost county incomes through increased land rates paid to the counties and infrastructure development fund in a stakeholder-led program. This contribution to enhanced county-owned resource revenues underscores a deeper commitment to the long-term prosperity of the region and the communities around.

Moreover, there has been commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) made over the last four years to support education, healthcare, water facilities, and public utilities infrastructure in Kericho and Bomet counties and over a billion has been committed for sustainable agriculture, quality education and training as well as women economic empowerment. By investing in the well-being and development of the communities, we are not just creating value for ourselves but also building a more resilient and thriving ecosystem around the tea estates, to overcome some of the devastating challenges brought about by climate change among others. With our commitment to social responsibility and community investments, we not only want to set industry standards but also serve as a model for sustainable development and inclusive growth to create a legacy of prosperity that extends far beyond the tea estates to enriching the lives of future generations too.

[Lindah Oluoch is the CEO, Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA)]

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