What is the meaning of a culture of sustainability?

Prof. Dr. Carola Strassner, endowed professor of sustainable nutrition at the Münster University of Applied Sciences, writes in the AoeL 2012 Special Issue on the concept of sustainability: to satisfy the needs of the present in a way that there is no risk that the needs of future generations may not be satisfied. Many now refer to a mantra of three elements, or pillars of sustainability: ecology, economy and social issues.

Sustainability in the daily practice in China

Maximising the development of these three pillars is indeed a positive guideline to the development and safety of the entire ecological process in terms of resource conservation – an economy based on consistent fairness, partnership, support and understanding, and a development in which the necessary social needs of the market participants are met, especially of poor farmers in developing countries.

1. Sustainable ecological processes, taking tea cultivation as an example

For organic farming in developing countries, sustainability means not only bureaucratically complying with European regulations on organic farming, but also creating real farming and nutrient cycles that have a positive impact on humus formation and soil fertility, which serve the protection of the environment and the climate and positively support the future nutrition of mankind. In addition, such processes must be supported with proper advice and good quality management, and the implementation must be controlled permanently, practically and completely.

2. Sustainable economy exemplified by tea cultivation

For the economy – and thus for all market participants who trade in organic products – this means gradually abandoning old trading structures and developing a form of pricing that is not based on the market but rather on the costs of production and fair marketing opportunities. Such prices will vary individually depending on how the development of sustainable processes has progressed and the sales of the total production have been secured. In this respect, the trade has a great responsibility.

Fair prices for sustainably produced goods can only be realised if a market for sustainable products is established. As long as there is a majority of market participants who do not want to reward sustainable development, there is little chance for a successful and swift development of a sustainable ecological process. If it is always about the lowest possible price, then the market situation becomes increasingly unfair and exploitative, to which many market participants still turn a blind eye. If producers do not generate the revenue they need to cover their production costs in organic farming, then they have to reduce the costs of production to compensate for losses, in the social sector and by paying their employees and farmers poorly. At worst, they are forced to violate the sustainable process. All of this happens because we do not have a culture of sustainability in the global economy, nor in the organic economy. These aspects of unfairness and exploitation play a very important role in the violation of organic farming in developing countries. In contrast, in Europe it hardly matters if market participants are driving producers into desperate situations with their unfair prices, which don’t allow the proper implementation of the organic process.

3. Sustainable social responsibility, taking tea cultivation as an example

In developing countries, sustainable social responsibility of the market participants for the farmers and employees of an organic tea plantation is inextricably linked to the success of the sustainable organic farming. The farmers and employees of an organic tea plantation do the extra work caused by organic farming. In tea growing this means very hard physical work pulling up weeds by hand. In China, for example, about 1,700 small farmers manually weed 360 hectares of cultivated land twice a year. Independent smallholders receive for their complete organic agricultural work, including tea harvesting and pre-processing of the tea, about 35 to 50 euros per month. They are rarely paid extra for their extra work caused by organic farming.

Machine support can only provide limited relief and is often non-existent for cost reasons. Compost production and its application in high altitudes on mountains and in rough terrain is also hard work, which must be carried out predominantly by hand. Yield losses, which arise in organic farming, must also be borne by the smallholders. Often the farmers were not even asked for their consent before switching to organic farming. In most cases, smallholders do not know what organic farming means, nor do the producers, who are often only interested in higher export prices, which are usually realised for organically produced products with organic certificates. Consulting structures are not available in China and to get organic advice is virtually impossible for farmers and producers. However, organic certificates are still issued. Not only that this causes mistakes to happen, but it also forces farmers to violate the rules of organic farming for economic reasons.

In China, it is relatively easy for European importers to select as suppliers agricultural companies who comply with Chinese labour law and thus with ILO (International Labour Organisation) standards. Importers could thus opt out from exploitation and lawlessness by favoring companies who lease the land from the smallholder farmers and hire the former smallholders as workers. These companies are obliged by law to conclude employment contracts with all employees, complying with Chinese labour law. This regulates statutory working hours, the right to health insurance, accident insurance, pension insurance and a minimum wage of about 200 euros per month. However, for importers who opt for such social sustainability, the result is that production costs of thus produced goods are higher, and the price of their products will be correspondingly higher.

Therefore, rather few importers make use of this choice, or they are too comfortable, not conscientious and responsible enough, or do not know these choices. Sustainability certifications and Fairtrade certifications do not ensure such fair working conditions, as they promote exploitation and lawlessness by certifying smallholder structures in which exploitation takes place.


  • February 2014
    Die negative Entwicklung im Xinanyuan-Projekt mit den Farmen Hecheng, Xinanyuan, Liukou 1, Liukou 2 und Mingzhou konnte nicht korrigiert werden. Fairbiotea distanziert sich nun dauerhaft vom Xinanyuan-Projekt. Die Teesorten ab der Ernte 2013 dürfen nicht mit dem Fairbiotea-Siegel vermarktet werden.
    Read more ...

  • July 2013
    Negative Entwicklung im Fairbiotea-Projekt Xinanyuan (die Farmen Hecheng, Xinanyuan, Liukou 1, Liukou 2 und Mingzhou) Fairbiotea distanziert sich vorübergehend oder dauerhaft vom Xinanyuan-Projekt. Die Teesorten aus der Ernte 2013 dürfen nicht unter dem Fairbiotea-Siegel vermarktet werden. Alle Teesorten aus vorheriger Produktion können weiterhin mit diesem Siegel vermarktet werden.
    Read more ...

  • December 2012
    Probleme bei der Kontrolle des ökologischen Produktionsprozesses in den Farmen Liukou und Hecheng (Xinanyuan-Projekt). Bei den Routineuntersuchungen aller Tee-Chargen des Xinanyuan 4-Farmen-Projektes wurden seit vielen Jahren stets die BNN-Orientierungswerte eingehalten. Bei jeweils einem Tee aus der Liukou-Farm und der Hecheng-Farm wurde nun ein im ökologischen Anbau verbotenes Herbizid (Unkrautvernichtungsmittel) gemessen.
    Read more ...

  • August 2012
    Herstellungskosten, Exportpreise und Qualität im ökologischen Anbauprozess. Der wirtschaftliche Erfolg von z.B. China oder Indien verändert auch die traditionellen, sozialwirtschaftlichen Strukturen bei der Landbevölkerung und deren bisherige Arbeitsbedingungen und Lebensstandards.
    Read more ...

  • June 2012
    Weltweite Kostensteigerungen in der Teeproduktion und stark steigende Importpreise. Nicht nur bei Tee steigen die Herstellungskosten und verteuern sich die Vertriebswege. Alle landwirtschaftlichen Produkte sind von Kostensteigerungen betroffen. 
    Read more ...

  • January 2012
    Messbare Rückstände von Pflanzenschutzmitteln. Nichts gespritzt und doch belastet, so wurde ein Bericht der BNN-Nachrichten (Ausgabe September/2011 auf Seite 19) überschrieben. 
    Read more ...

  • December 2011
    Entwicklungsprogramm natürlicher Nährstoffkreislauf - Kompostseminar, Kompostherstellung und -forschung: Im Oktober 2011 wurde im Auftrag des Fairbiotea-Importeurs ein Seminar veranstaltet. Das Seminar wurde von dem Bodenkundler Tobias Bandel geleitet. 
    Read more ...

  • November 2011
    Inspektion der Fairbiotea-Standards durch eine unabhängige Kontrollstelle. Unter http://www.fairbiotea.de/zertifizierung.html haben wir die Bestätigung der Biokontrollstelle IMO für alle 4 Biofarmen veröffentlicht. 
    Read more ...

  • September 2011
    Inspektion der Fairbiotea-Standards durch eine unabhängige Kontrollstelle. Im Sommer 2011 wurden in allen Fairbiotea-Teefarmen Kontrollen durchgeführt, bei denen neben der normalen Kontrolle nach EU-Verordnung und nach USDA NOP auch die Entwicklung der zusätzlichen ökosozialen Fairbiotea-Standards überprüft wurden. 
    Read more ...