Twinings: Promoting worker-management engagement in Sri Lanka

A woman picking tea at a plantation in Sri Lanka

As part of their Sourced with Care programme, Twinings is collaborating with CARE International and Sri Lankan tea plantations to improve the lives of estate workers and their families. The partnership is applying a tool devised by CARE with the aim of not only improving the working environment and gender equality but also the sustainability of Twinings’ supply chain.

Despite significant increases in social welfare, Sri Lankan tea estate communities remain socially and economically marginalised. Workers experience poor living conditions and they lack communication channels to redress grievances with their employers. This leads to unmet needs and aspirations of the worker population causing serious repercussions for the sector’s productivity, profitability and sustainability.

CARE has been working to improve the living and working conditions of Sri Lankan tea plantation communities for over two decades. We have been implementing Community Development Forums (CDF) on Sri Lankan estates, an innovative model which act like ‘mini parliaments’ to facilitate dialogue between workers, management and the wider community.

Our approach puts the community at the heart of the solution, creating a sustainable workforce by empowering workers, especially women and young people.

The CDF model opens up new channels of communication, enabling important discussions and collective decisions about community development (such as health or education) and labour conditions. Everything is negotiated and decided in a transparent way. Management, tea pluckers and workers, unions, and community leaders are all represented; importantly, women are given an equal role and encouraged to participate.

In partnership, we aim to establish new CDFs on seven tea estates from which Twinings sources. Through the CDFs the project also seeks to build capacity and train workers in income-generating activities to improve their livelihoods, for example dairy farming, poultry farming, home-gardening and mushroom farming. Our project aims to improve the lives of 3,500 workers and indirectly benefit 16,000 family members.

An independent evaluation by the New Economics Foundation found that for every $1 invested in CARE’s worker empowerment programming (CDFs), $42 dollars of social value was produced, with over $26 accruing directly to the host estate.