Corporate Responsibility: Case study - Tetley GB and Concern Universal

Tania Mason

Tetley GB, the tea company, has embarked on its biggest CSR initiative, a three-year well-building programme in Malawi that will give 10,000 people access to safe water.

Sara Howe, Tetley's director of company identity and communications, says the company has always "been a caring company in terms of employee welfare, ethical tea issues and charity fundraising, but over the past two or three years we have really been ramping this up".

Efforts have focused on identifying how the company can make a positive difference to its supply chain, "from bush to cup", she adds.

Tetley was introduced to Concern Universal, an international development and emergency relief organisation based in Hereford, more than a year ago through a mutual contact.

The two organisations both had close contact with Malawi: Tetley buys 16 per cent of its tea crop, and Concern Universal has worked there since the late 1980s, drilling or upgrading 1,600 wells. The seeds of a partnership were sown, and it bore its first fruits last week, when the first new well was opened officially.

The Malawi government has set a target of providing a safe water point for every 250 people that is no more than 500m walking distance from their homes. Tetley will pay for at least 40 new wells to be drilled each year, and will also fund the training of local people in sanitation, hygiene and well maintenance. At £2,500 per well, this amounts to £100,000 annually.

The programme goes beyond stumping up cash for wells, however. Howe is to carry out a strategic communications review for Concern Universal.

Oldfield Primary School in Greenford, London, where Tetley employees volunteer, is to run a 'Malawi Week' in February to educate students about sustainable development and raise funds for the project. And selected Tetley staff will eventually go out to Malawi to work on the water project and help with mentoring local people.

Concern Universal has had two other corporate relationships in Africa, with horticultural business Haygrove and cider-maker Bulmers. But executive director Ian Williams describes the Tetley partnership as "in an altogether different league, both in terms of ambition and finances".

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