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Numi Organic Teas, a Company that Focuses on Social Justice and Profitability

Can a company focus on social justice and profitability at the same time? The answer: yes. The example: Numi Organic Tea, the leading importer of fair-trade certified teas in the United States, located in Oakland, California. Numi is a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Over ten years ago, two siblings founded Numi Organic Tea and decided to create a tea company based on social justice. Their focus was to offer organic premium quality tea leaves without flavoring while supporting the tea growers. They were not stereotypical “business people,” but they had a clear vision of what they wanted that embodied social responsibility and linked economic, ecological and moral factors.  When they started, there was not much talk about fair-trade. As the movement grew, they incorporated fair-trade concepts into the core of their business and they established appropriate management systems for their supply chain. In 2005, they received certification by TransFair USA and today nearly all of Numi’s teas are fair-trade.

Numi has also been certified by B Lab as a B Corporation in California, and influences the industry and the market beyond the scope of its individual business. B Corporations are required by law to create general benefit for society as well as for shareholders, and consider how their decisions affect their employees, community, and the environment. Being fair-trade is a crucial ingredient and a competitive advantage for Numi.

Tea remains a small component in the world of fair-trade; in 2010 the United States purchased more than 110 million pounds of fair-trade coffee and only 1.8 million pounds of fair-trade tea. However,  Numi’s leadership continues to affect the tea industry. The company wants to take the fair-trade commitment a step further and be the first company to adopt a new voluntary “fair labor” standard developed by Scientific Certification Systems in Emeryville, California this upcoming year. This standard emphasizes fair wages throughout the entire supply chain from manufacturing to production and distribution.

Who benefits from this new way of doing business? Not only Numi but the owners and workers from the small family-run farms that sell tea to Numi and the communities that surround them. Some Numi’s community development projects include mosquito nets, on-site health care, regular worm treatment, street lamps, HIV/AIDS training and school supplies. The environment also benefits from this new way of doing business since Numi’s packaging uses recycled, postconsumer waste and soy inks.