NEMI TEA: Empowering refugees through employment
A UK based tea company inspired by Indian tradition, sustainability runs through the heart of Nemi Tea. Obliged by providing the utmost quality, Nemi source their tea from educated and experienced farmers in the Assam region of India, who in return, are honoured for their hard work through fair-trade initiatives. A fundamental aspect of Nemi’s business model is to empower refugees, by offering them employment opportunities rarely accessible to them in the UK job market. Nemi hopes to give a large number of refugees the chance to develop new skills; integrate into society, and ultimately provide for themselves and their families. We spoke to Pranav Chopra, the founder of Nemi, to get a greater insight and to discuss his plans for the future.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Borengajuli Tea Estate in the Assam region of India, and the role they play in your business?
PC: We source all our Black tea from the Borengajuli Tea Estate in Assam which is both Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified. We support the local farmers at the estate by paying the Fairtrade premium and are active promoters of Black tea sourced from the Assam region.
In the Photo: Nemi Tea team. On the right: Pranav Chopra, founder Photo Credit: Nemi Tea
Q: You are also part of the fair-trade movement, why is honouring your producer so important to you?
PC: We support the Fair-trade movement as often those who grow and pick our tea don’t even earn enough to feed their families let alone plan for the future. So by buying tea on Fair-trade terms, farmers and workers benefit in many ways, from improved working conditions through to training in how to improve the way they farm and manage their environment to the opportunity to improve healthcare and education in their community and this is something we strongly believe in supporting through our business.
Related article: “ETHICAL TEA PARTNERSHIP- ADAPTING SMALLHOLDERS TO CLIMATE CHANGE” by Andrew Budsock
Q: The way you wish to empower refugees through employment is uncharacteristic of most business models, can you go into detail about how and why you are keen to change the lives of refugees?
PC: Of the 65 million refugees worldwide who have been displaced due to conflict or persecution, the UK has accepted approximately 120,000 (UNHCR). Pressure to expand this number, coupled with a system failing to address the needs of those that are already here, screams for innovative new ideas.
Our team was moved to do something about this situation. Through interviews with refugees and experts at the Refugee Council UK, we began to understand the main issues refugees face after obtaining the right to live and work in the UK. These conversations highlighted three primary shortcomings in refugees’ access to opportunity:
- the struggle to find their first job
- low confidence due to weak English language ability
- gaps in education and skills required to enter the UK job market
So we decided to set up this social business where we want to set up a franchise of tea stalls across London food markets which will give refugees an opportunity to re-gain their confidence, improve their teamwork and communication skills, and gain UK work experience. The refugees will run these tea stalls alongside people who are passionate about providing a positive experience for them as they brew cups of hot chai at food markets. We also employ refugees within our business to perform roles varying from social media, sales and research work.
Q: Why is being recognised as a B-Corporation an ambition of Nemi, and how do you plan on gaining this certification?
PC: NEMI prides itself as a socially responsible business with having a positive impact right across its supply chain and having a BCorp certification is a recognition of that commitment. It showcases our drive to meet the high standards set internally to tackle the social and environmental problems by being transparent in our operations and legally accountable for our actions. It also allows us to be part of the expanding community who believe in “using business as a force for good”.
We are already have been awarded a Pending BCorp status and are now in the process of gaining full certification by focusing on the following key areas:
- Governance and Corporate Accountability
- Worker benefits and training
- Supply Chain
In the Photo: Nemi Tea products Photo Credit: Nemi Tea
Q: Can you explain the relationship that you have with supporting organisations/charities, and how you are trying to benefit each other?
PC: We have strong relationships with UK-based refugee bodies including Refugee Council UK who are our core sponsor as well as Transitions London, a charity helping refugees in to employment. We work closely with Refugee Council UK on a referral basis as they introduce us to refugees looking for employment. We provide work experience to those refugees whilst helping them improve their English language skills and then work with Transitions London to secure skilled employment for the refugees based on the experience they gained at NEMI.
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