IFC Statement in Response to Columbia Law School Report on Tea Plantations in India
3 February 2014
IFC welcomes Columbia Law School’s report (the Report), which highlights the difficult environment and legacy of tea plantations in India. This research is valuable, and we encouraged our client, Amalgamated Plantations Private, Ltd. (APPL), to provide Professor Rosenblum and his colleagues with appropriate access to its facilities.
The tea sector is India’s largest private employer. Its challenges are well known. Across Assam and other tea plantation areas, poverty is deeply entrenched. IFC chose to partner with APPL, as a company that has adopted strong environmental and social sustainability standards and is committed to their implementation. APPL is also providing opportunities for workers to share in the benefits of growing the company.
APPL has undertaken considerable efforts to improve employee welfare, including through building and renovating houses and sanitation facilities, and the employee share ownership program. After a comprehensive set of audits for all 24 estates during the 2011-2013 period, the Company doubled its budget for building and renovation in April 2013. This will accelerate its ability to address the deficiencies highlighted in the Report. The employee share ownership program is also showing attractive returns for the 70 percent of APPL employees who have chosen to participate. Further details on these programs are provided at the bottom of this statement and will be elaborated on in a separate statement by APPL.
As the report highlights, significant work remains to be done and IFC has an important obligation in the ongoing improvement of APPL’s tea plantations. Given the large number of estates, the company’s large workforce and other legacy issues, the implementation of standards may vary between tea estates. APPL has agreed with IFC to make specific changes to improve the effectiveness and application of its environment and social programs. Such changes include more effective stakeholder engagement and strengthening employee grievance redress procedures. An ongoing review by IFC’s compliance and accountability mechanism will also inform our continued work with APPL.
We appreciate the considerable work done by the research team on the challenges facing the tea industry in India. We are reviewing their findings together with APPL and will take into account their recommendations as we continue to work to improve conditions on the ground.