The Changing Landscape of Sustainable Certifications in the Kenyan Tea Industry: An Exploratory Case Study

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Agricultural industries increasingly use corporate responsibility mechanisms, such as sustainable standards and certification schemes, to create sustainable production-consumption systems and sustainable products. In the case of agricultural products, the study of certifications is especially vital to ensure that they are truly improving the wellbeing of the economy, society, and environment in areas where they are applied. Data from 2012 demonstrate that Kenya led the global tea industry in percent of national tea production certified by one of the four main sustainable certifications in tea (Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ, and Organic), but there is limited literature on the impact that the implementation of certifications has had on the Kenyan tea industry. This research will highlight and discuss previously unevaluated trends within the landscape of sustainable certifications in the current Kenyan tea industry by combining existing literature, first-hand interview and observation, and data collection in an exploratory case study. The key trends illuminated by this research, which were previously undocumented, include, 1) the pervasiveness of Rainforest Alliance 2) the tensions between farm productivity, insufficient value of tea, and sustainability and 3) the efforts to transcend the capacity of certification in the short and long term. This study explores these undocumented trends to increase awareness within tea industry stakeholders and inform future research on sustainable certifications in Kenya, and elsewhere.





DeBree, Schuyler (2018). The Changing Landscape of Sustainable Certifications in the Kenyan Tea Industry: An Exploratory Case Study. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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