Tea Tree Of Life
The Body Shop launched Community Fair Trade in 1987 and has always been considered the pioneer of fair trade in beauty. And, with more than 90 percent of their products containing Community Fair Trade ingredients, it’s no wonder the brand’s renowned for their ethical values and commitment to social and environmental change. Pang Ching Yan, Assistant PR & Values Manager of The Body Shop, unfolds the story of how it gets its tea tree oil.
Why is it important for The Body Shop to use fair-trade ingredients?
The Body Shop believes that trading should be an ethical act. We seek out small-scale farmers, traditional artisans and rural co-ops who are experts their field. It’s our commitment to ensure small-scale farmers like those in the Kenyan Organic Oil Farmers Association (KOOFA) receive a sustainable income through fair trading practices.
The Body Shop’s Community Fair Trade relationships with partners across the world ensures quality ingredients through sustainable farming practices and provides a sustainable income for small-scale farmers to have better access to education, healthcare and more. Many of the fair-trade initiatives have employed women in areas where opportunity did not exist for them before.
Today, the programme brings real benefits to over 320,000 people in marginalised communities across 25 countries. We don’t do this because it’s fashionable; we do it because we believe it’s the only way to do business.
Tell us more about the KOOFA and their involvement in harvesting this tea tree oil for The Body Shop.
It is a co-operative formed by over 400 small-scale farmers living near the foothills of Mount Kenya. By participating in the co-operative, the farmers allocated their farmland to growing and harvesting Tea Tree oil. The tea tree leaves are hand weeded and handpicked by the farmers, and then steam-distilled in a unique harvesting process that retains the key properties of the tea tree plant. Our trade with KOOFA encourages sustainable and organic farming methods, which help preserve the area’s natural bio-diversity.
How exactly is the KOOFA benefitting from working with The Body Shop?
Half of this group of farmers are women. Due to AIDS-related deaths, many of these women are supporting their families alone. Growing tea tree helps all its farmers earn a steady annual income.
The Body Shop pays a social premium on every kilo of organic tea tree oil we buy, which further benefits the local community. The social premium paid goes into a development fund managed by the community leaders, who spend this on healthcare, schools, or local infrastructure. For example, many people in remote, rural areas of Kenya don’t have reliable access to safe, clean drinking water. Our trade with KOOFA enables it to work on projects that improve the amount of clean water its local communities can drink. A scholarship programme has also been set up to fund needy students for their education, as they will otherwise start work at a young age.