EDIT 18/09/2017: Since this article was first published Pukka were taken over by Unilever and can no longer so easily be considered an ethical company. Read more at Ethical Consumer. However, Pukka are a registered B Corp meaning they have legal binds to operate with standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Since becoming CEO, Unilever’s Paul Polman has made attempts to decouple Unilever’s growth from its environmental footprint as well as increasing its positive social impact. Takeover of B Corps is part of this process.
Pukka Herbs produce organic tea, wellbeing and health supplements that are good for you, the environment and the communities from which the natural ingredients are grown.
The Pukka idea originated from an advert placed in a Bristol magazine by Tim Westwell in 2001, an entrepreneur with a great passion for natural-health. The advert ran for two weeks and the only response came from an enthusiastic, young herbalist called Sebastian Pole. The overarching idea of Pukka is to connect people to the incredible powers of herbs. Sebastian had already decided that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, championing the power of herbs and introducing them to a wider variety of people. He wanted to create delicious infusions that not only supported human health, but also adhered to environmentally friendly practices and conservation. It wasn’t only tea that inspired Sebastian, he also wanted to create gorgeous herbal syrups, amazing Aloe vera juices and fantastic herbal supplements that would benefit his customers and the environment. On the other hand, Tim has over 10 year’s experience as a business change consultant coupled with a genuine passion for herbs, nutrition, therapy and a great desire to make a positive change and create an ethical business. Tim and Sebastian spent many hours in Tim’s Bristol flat working all the hours possible to bring their idea to fruition. They wanted their business to be centred around the holistic principles of Ayerveda, a system of traditional Hindu medicine, with the profits serving a purpose. Tim and Sebastian decided to call their business ‘Pukka Herbs’ as in Hindu pukka means ‘real, authentic or genuine’ which embodied everything that they wanted their business to be.
Working with individual growers and communities
Pukka use the very best possible organic herbs and go directly to growers who share their values; such individuals who were willing to make extra efforts to meet Pukka’s standards. The search for the very best growers led Tim and Sebastian to Europe, Africa, India, SE Asia and South America. Pukka work with dedicated herb farmers in each of these places, who each have a great respect for and knowledge of the soil, plants and wildlife in which they work. Pukka have fostered mutually-beneficial and long-lasting relationships with each of their growers.
Herb Training Programme
Pukka Herbs created a herb farming training programme in 2006 that is based on the World Health Organisation’s ‘Good Agriculture and Collection Practices for Medicinal Plants’. This programme offers help and support to farmers who want to qualify as Pukka growers by giving them guidance on how to best grow, harvest and dry herbs to ensure optimum quality. The programme also offers guidance on how to grow and collect plants in a sustainable manner by protecting vulnerable species and soil fertility. Currently Pukka are working with growers in over 20 different countries, with many of the growers joining together to create informal groups. The groups then sell their produce to a larger producer who can deal with the European quality control requirements. Tim and Sebastian also make a point of visiting their growers as often as possible in order to listen to and resolve any issues such as crop success and climate change. The growers are free to sell their produce to any business, although Tim and Sebastian try to be their first choice.
Work with WWF
WWF believe that the sustainability of all living things on the planet are interdependent and therefore, conserving and protecting the natural world is of utmost importance to WWF. Pukka have very similar interests in protecting the natural world and so it only seemed natural that they would join forces. In 2012 Pukka and WWF launched the ‘Beautiful World’ campaign. The ‘Beautiful World’ campaign was a celebration of 10 years of Pukka’s work making herbal teas. The campaign saw people joining in all around the world to share stories, videos and pictures that depicted their own ‘beautiful world’. Through this campaign and sales of Pukka’s Peppermint and Licorice tea Pukka customers raised over £66,000 to assist WWF’s amazing conservation projects. This year Pukka and WWF are joining forces again to support a special initiative called ‘Living Himalayas’. Pukka are supporting this WWF initiative through the creation of four new green teas: Supreme Matcha Green; Cool Mint Green; Clean Green and Serene Jasmine Green. With each sale made Pukka are donating 20p to WWF-UK to help protect animals such as the snow leopard and the Bengal tiger living in the Himalayas. The goal is to raise over £50,000 for the initiative, so by drinking a cup of one of the naturally healthy herbal green teas it couldn’t be easier for Pukka customers to support an incredible charity.
FairWild is based on similar principles to Fairtrade but the difference is that it is designed for plant ingredients that have been collected from the wild. The FairWild logo on a Pukka product guarantees that the plants used have been harvested and collected sustainably and that the collectors have been paid fairly. FairWild is about protecting the environment whilst ensuring that the people who grow and harvest the crops can lead decent and dignified lives. For example, farming practices that leave some crops untouched in order to naturally regenerate are incentivised by FairWild. FairWild collectors are paid a premium price and similarly to Fairtrade, an additional amount known as the FairWild premium is paid to the collector’s cooperative to be spent on social and environmental projects in the local community. Such an incentive gives the collectors increased interests in conserving the long-term survival of plant and animal species and their habitats. Therefore when you enjoy a cup of delicious Pukka tea, blended with FairWild herbs you can also feel safe in the knowledge that you are supporting environmentally sustainable practices and socially sustainable communities.
The Pukka range
The range of Pukka products expands further than delicious teas, with food such as organic virgin coconut oil and organic wellbeing supplements such as neem oil also on offer. Different flavours of teas are also constantly being created, with exquisite seasonal flavours such as wild apple and cinnamon offered in winter months. The vast range of teas on offer provide fantastic benefits such as aiding digestion, detoxing, cleansing, immunity and weight loss amongst others. The website also offers CDs on how to relax with yoga master Dr Shankardev Saraswati and books with more information regarding the wisdom of Ayurveda. The online shop is constantly being updated with various fabulous offers, promotions, savings and sales. One great offer at the moment is a Pick and Mix selection box. You can choose ten teas from over 30 flavours and Pukka will pick them, box them and send them to you or a friend for just £2.99, the price for postage and packaging. With so much to offer why not try something from the beautiful Pukka range today and feel confident that what you’re buying is good for you, the environment and the people who provide the ingredients. The Pukka range is available at all good health food stores and there may be a selection at your local supermarket. So as you snuggle down to a gorgeous hot tea you can feel safe in the knowledge that you are supporting a fantastic ethical, environmentally-friendly business.