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It's not about tea and it never has been

Many people are surprised when they hear that I entered the tea business. “I never expected you to be a tea type.”

(Whatever that may mean.) Right, neither am I. I'm the type who wants to dedicate his career to changing food chains. It seemed a logical step to start with the second most drink consumed in the world (water is #1), tea, and at the same time an important commodity crop for many developing countries.

As consumers, we need to become aware that by purchasing a product, we are voicing a voice for the system responsible for creating that product. Because I got to experience this system up close in tea, I no longer support it. I realized that all my life I've been drinking a commercialized drink, influenced by stock trading and mass production, not by taste or quality.

We simply can no longer create companies that are independent of the origin of the products they sell, and we don't need to.

Integrating a fair trade chain into a company's business model has long since ceased being idealistic, it has become a viable commercial option.

One thing is certain; we have to include man again in the capitalist calculation. Although we have experienced all kinds of crises as a society, it does not appear that we have changed our behavior. Our way of thinking and doing business is so rusty and outdated that it stands in the way of progress. The tea industry has continued to operate almost entirely in the same way as in colonial times. That's why we need to move as quickly as possible to a new way of thinking and doing business that pays more attention to people.

The Dutch company Philips was famous in the 1990s for taking exceptional care of their factory workers. These received housing and health care, creating a safety net in addition to the monthly salaries. Over time, companies took less and less responsibility for improving the living conditions of their employees and we came to trust governments to care for our well-being and that of our society (which didn't work out too well…). It's time to move to a model where companies take responsibility for everyone involved in their supply chains, from the tea pickers to the accountants. Those involved are not just people, but consist of the entire ecosystem in which a company operates and is part of.

In documentary ‘Return of happiness’ mentions an interesting concept: Minimum Viable Profit (smallest possible profit). The Minimum Viable Profit (MVPr) is the minimum profit a company must make to keep the business viable and sustainable. By definition, the company no longer acts solely with a view to maximizing profits, thereby reducing the pressure on efficiency and operational cost reduction.

Social impact can therefore become one of the core objectives of a company, and must therefore be included in the (financial) valuation of a company. Of course, this does not mean that a company cannot make a profit, because long-term viability is crucial, but maximizing profit is no longer the core objective. The year-end reports are no longer dominated by numbers, but include impact analyzes and social indicators.

Frank about tea still has a long way to go to become an example of this innovative business model, but we are definitely on the way. 

It is becoming increasingly difficult for large companies to convince consumers that their heart is in the right place with beautiful words and radiant photos.

If a company needs expensive campaigns to demonstrate corporate social responsibility, we have to ask ourselves why these big words and budgets are needed at all to explain something that is in fact very simple: does the company take social responsibility into account? interest? Yes or no.

This is why Frank about tea is not (only) concerned with offering better tea, but also with turning the industrialized, anonymous cup of tea into a more humane cup of tea.

Let's be frank, a honest cup of tea tastes a lot better too, promise!

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