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Pukka Herbs tea taken over by Unilever

Sep 18

Written by:
18/09/2017 15:25  RssIcon

Company ethical score drops by 9 points


Corporate giant Unilever has taken over the organic tea company Pukka.

The deal, which went through last week, sees Pukka's score on Ethical Consumer's rating system drop from 13.5 to 4.5, in line with Unilever's score. The company was also stripped of its Company Ethos mark which was awarded because the whole company group only sold organic products. Unilever does not just sell organic products.


Image: Pukka

Photo credit: Flickr 


Because of this dramatic fall in the company's score, Pukka has been removed as a recommended Best Buy from the Ethical Consumer tea, herbal tea and coconut oil product guides.


On hearing the news Ethical Consumer co-editor Tim Hunt said:

"It is always sad when ethical companies sell out to big corporations. The money spent on Pukka products will no longer just be going to a small fluffy company and their suppliers but instead be winding its way into the coffers of one the world’s largest food processing and cosmetics companies who have had a something of a mixed record when it comes to ethical issues." 

How ethical is Unilever? 

Over the past few years Unilever have been accused of talking the talk but failing to walk the walk when it comes to sustainability.

Ethical Consumer's own research has found that:

  • While Unilever scores a best policy rating for palm oil, it has been accused of using suppliers that contribute to deforestation in South East Asia and Africa
  • The company is a proponent of GM technologies and invests heavily in research and promotion of them
  • Unilever CEO Paul Polman was paid £10,403,000 in 2016, an amount that Ethical Consumer deemed excessive
  • The company has subsidiaries in a number of oppressive regimes including Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and Israel
  • The company still tests on animals
  • The company also scores Ethical Consumer’s worst ratings for its cocoa supply chain policy and likely use of tax avoidance strategies


'Fair trade scheme' 

The Pukka Herbs founders told the Guardian that Pukka had agreed “solid iron-clad commitments” from Unilever to stand by its ethical standards including 100% organic, “fair for life” Fairtrade and FairWild accreditation for wild collected herbs.

Mick van Ettinger, head of tea at Unilever, said Pukka was the fastest-growing organic tea brand in the world and offered a “great growth opportunity” by using the Anglo-Dutch group’s network to increase distribution.

The sale came after Pukka Herbs announced that it was the latest company to replace the Fairtrade Foundation certification in favour of a lesser known independent Fair for Life standard. 

Sainsbury’s tea and Mondelez (Green & Blacks and Cadbury) also recently announced moves to ditch Fairtrade but they choose to use a their own in-house ‘fair trade’ schemes rather than independent schemes. Tesco has also ditched Fairtrade on its tea and coffee for the alternative Rainforest Alliance standard.


Shopping alternatives

Tea - QI, Equal Exchange and Hampstead Tea, Steenbergs, Clipper, Cafedirect, Traidcraft.

Herbal tea –  QI, Equal Exchange and Hampstead teas, Essential, Dragonfly.

Coconut Oil - Lucy B and Tiana.



This article was amended on 26/9/2017 to say that Pukka had dropped 9 points and their score was now 4.5 and not 3.5 as previously stated. 









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