James Finlay, Ekatera lose licenses over sexual abuse claims

This means tea exported by the firm and Ekatera will not be accepted as it's not certified.

In Summary
  • Rainforest Alliance says the company failed to conform to the social and management criteria.
  • It says it launched an independent investigation following the BBC documentary which established some facts in it.
Tea pluckers on tea farms in Kericho.
Tea pluckers on tea farms in Kericho.
Image: BBC

James Finlay Kenya which owns tea estates in Bomet and Kericho has suffered yet another blow after an international regulator vetoed its products.

Rainforest Alliance, in a notice, has announced the suspension of its license over what it termed as failure to conform to the social and management criteria.

Also affected is Ekatera Tea, formerly known as Unilever Tea Kenya, operating in the two counties.

The suspension comes following a BBC expose on allegations of sexual abuse of workers in which more than 70 women were reported to have been sexually abused.

“For both tea estates, the audits confirmed the presence of non-conformities of the social and management criteria of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. Based on these results, we have taken the decision to suspend the certifications of both certificate holders, in accordance with the Rainforest Alliance's Certification and Auditing Rules V1.2,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“The certificate holders in question have been notified, as per the rules of our programme,” it adds.

Rainforest Alliance says it launched an independent investigation following the documentary which established some facts in it.

The revocation means the tea exported by the two companies to international markets will not be accepted as it is not certified, something that is set to impact negatively on its sales at a time there is stiff competition among various tea companies.

But the suspension, it says, will not affect the tea shipped out before the suspension took effect on May 9.

“Buyers can still claim these volumes as they are Rainforest Alliance certified based on transactions on traceability platform,” the statement reads.

It has also said it is committed to working with local stakeholders and other actors in the supply chain in developing a plan to addressing the ongoing challenge of gender-based violence.

The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organisation “working at the intersection of business, agriculture and forests to ensure a responsible business”.

It is building an alliance to protect forests, improve the livelihoods of farmers and forest communities, promote their human rights and help them mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.

“We are an alliance of farmers, forest communities, companies, and consumers committed to creating a world where people and nature thrive in harmony,” a communication on its page reads.

The withdrawal of the license comes in the wake of a recent announcement by James Finlay to sell the farms to a Sri Lankan company, Browns Investment.

“We undertook a rigorous process when identifying a buyer for this unique business, prioritising what was best for James Finlay Kenya and its community,” James Woodrow, the managing director said.

The sale comes at a time the multinational firm is embroiled in a persistent dispute with local leaders and communities over the use of tea plucking machines that saw hundreds of workers rendered jobless.

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