FairWild and Pukka Teas: Creating a better planet and a better brew

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Pukka teas has boosted its environmental credentials and committed to preserving the planet’s dwindling wild plant species by signing up to the FairWild the scheme.

The FairWild initiative is based on similar principles to Fairtrade – the difference is that FairWild is designed specifically for plant ingredients that have been collected from the wild.

Founded in 2001, Bristol based Pukka Teas has deep rooted organic principles and has been certified organic by the Soil Association.  The new initiative with FairWild will build on these strong eco-conscious principles by directly targeting the Pukka teas supply chain.

At its core, the FairWild purpose is simple: “To ensure the continued use and long-term survival of wild plant species and populations in their habitats, while respecting the traditions and cultures, and supporting the livelihoods of all stakeholders, in particular collectors and workers.”

With 1 in 5 of the world’s plants now listed as under threat and at risk of extinction the need for a new approach to farming has never been greater.  The principle threats to plant life include over harvesting and habitat loss.

Traditional knowledge of wild harvesting techniques is also being lost as people move away from rural areas – drawn to the image of an easier and more prosperous life in the larger cities. FairWild aims to tackle both of these threats by protecting habitats and providing a fair income for collectors in rural communities.

Sebastian Pole is the Co-founder and Herbal Director at Pukka Herbs:

“For us here at Pukka, FairWild is an exciting and essential initiative – it allows us to strengthen our relationships with the incredible collectors who work hard to bring the power of herbs to others.

But, just as importantly, FairWild gives our customers a unique opportunity to join this ‘virtuous circle’ simply by enjoying teas blended with incredible FairWild herbs.”

To obtain FairWild certification, collectors, who may traditionally have uprooted an entire plant, will now be required to leave some of the root in the ground so that it can grow again the following year.

Collectors who would normally have harvested 100 per cent of the herbs in a given area, may also be required to leave 30-40 per cent of the population untouched so that the seed can mature and naturally regenerate.

Collecting from unspecified areas will also be ruled out under the FairWild agreement. All plants must be harvested from pre-determined and arranged collection sites in which detailed studies have been carried out.

“The FairWild logo on any of our teas provides a guarantee that the plants coming from the wild have been harvested in a sustainable way and that the collectors have been paid fairly for their work.

The benefits are felt by all those involved, not forgetting the incredible hard-working local communities harvesting the wild plants.”

In 2014, 28 per cent of Pukka teas products were FairWild certified.

  “By the end of 2016 all our teas will be Fair certified – either FairWild, Fairtrade or Fair for Life.”

Perhaps the greatest difficulty lies in how to persuade local farmers to not harvest all of their crop and providing them with a strong incentive to preserve plant populations is key.

To reflect the extra time and effort required to harvest the plants in a sustainable manner the individual collectors are paid a premium price, often 5-10 per cent above the normal cost.

In this way FairWild certification can transform a potentially destructive activity into a powerful tool for conservation.

The FairWild initiative also represents a massive commitment and investment for the eco-conscious business owner – one that is essential for ensuring positive business practices, argues Sebastian Pole:

“There’s an old Hindu proverb that says: ‘Help your brother’s boat across, and your own will reach the shore.’ In many ways, this wisdom captures the very essence of FairWild.”

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