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Giving Comfort and Refreshment: The Tazo-Mercy Corps Partnership

April 1, 2004

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The green, hilly lands around Darjeeling, India teem with families working in tea fields. The tiny leaves they harvest are their livelihood: this corner of India depends on tea as its main source of income. While the work is difficult and the days are long, the fruit of these families' efforts are enjoyed by millions around the world. These verdant hills are where many of Tazo Tea Company's products are grown.

More than a year ago, Tazo made a decision to "give back" to families around Darjeeling and make their lives easier. Even though some social services were already guaranteed to tea workers, Tazo wanted to improve families' livelihoods even more through ensuring reliable health services, improved education, cleaner water and better access to community officials. In order to fulfill these goals, Tazo sought out a partner to realize these changes. They found a willing and capable collaborator in Mercy Corps.

In January 2003, Tazo and Mercy Corps launched an innovative initiative called Community Health and Advancement in India (CHAI). The CHAI offices in Darjeeling opened in March 2003 and began a new era of corporate responsibility and social investment for that region of India. In an effort to improve the quality of life for rural communities around Darjeeling, the CHAI project is committed to three main objectives:

  • To reduce the number of cases of waterborne illnesses in local towns by 20 percent over the life of the project
  • To strengthen the ability of at least 12 community groups to manage their resources, prioritize needs, understand their environment, and represent their community interests in order to improve the lives of their communities
  • To develop young people's (age 14-21) leadership skills and ability to capitalize on opportunities in their communities in order to build self-esteem and their commitment to these communities

The partnership between Tazo, Mercy Corps, and local tea workers has been extremely positive and fruitful. The CHAI project, currently in its second year, is having success working with educators, laborers, health workers and children to accomplish its goals: healthier communities, better-informed citizens and more empowerment for local communities.

Tazo products are available in Starbucks stores across the nation, and the CHAI project is featured on many Starbucks store displays. Tazo Tea Company is owned by Starbucks.

Tazo's generous vision and Mercy Corps' ability to bring that foresight to fruition have resulted in an alliance that improves conditions in Darjeeling. In turn, tea drinkers around the world are becoming more informed about the needs of rural populations. Together, these partners are making a difference and re-shaping notions of how a company can invest in the communities where it works.

That's refreshing.