James Finlays, Ekaterra regain Rainforest Alliance permits

A signage at James Finlay Tea estates in Kericho in this photo taken on March 10, 2023. 

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

The Rainforest Alliance has lifted a two-month-long suspension of its licenses to two multinational tea companies - James Finlays Kenya and Ekaterra Plc, allowing them to regain their key export market niche.

The Rainforest Alliance suspended the certification for products of the two companies on May 9, over reported cases of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence against female workers in their Kenyan plantations.

Suspension of the licenses followed a documentary published by the BBC on February 20 and special reports carried by the Nation on the sexual exploitation by contractors, managers, and supervisors in the two companies, so that the targeted employees could get light duties and promotions in the plantations.

Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit making organization that works in areas of business, agriculture, and forests to protect the environment and create better working conditions for workers, besides building local economies.

The Rain Forest Alliance confirms that it carried out investigative audits on estates owned by the two multinational companies, which confirmed the presence of multiple nonconformities of social and management criteria of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agricultural standards.

In the latest communications, the Alliance states that the two companies were informed of the lifting of the suspension on July, 17 after they (companies) took action to close the identified non-conformities areas in the certification standards, according to a communication from the Alliance.

“Following the results of thorough recent verification audits, the Rainforest Alliance announces that the suspensions on both Ekaterra Tea Kenya and James Finlay Kenya have been lifted with immediate effect” the Alliance stated adding that it was working with the two companies to improve the approach to preventing and addressing human rights violations.

The Alliance states that it will work with certificate holders to “build transparent, trustworthy systems for monitoring, detecting, and remediating key human rights abuses.

“While the Rainforest Alliance will never tolerate human rights violations of any kind, we have learned throughout our 35 years of experience working in agricultural supply chains that complex issues – particularly those related to human rights abuses - cannot be solved by zero-tolerance approaches alone”

The suspension meant that the products of the two companies could not be sold in particular markets in Europe.