What is THIRST | Goals of THIRST | Principles of THIRST | How does it work | Governance

What is THIRST?

THIRST is The International Roundtable for Sustainable Tea.

It is a knowledge and action platform for civil society actors and tea industry stakeholders who are committed to working together to create a fair and thriving tea industry.

Our vision is of a fair and sustainable tea industry where workers and farmers are empowered and their rights are protected, within a system that is shaped by 21st century values and systems rather than 19th century ones.

Our mission is to provide a platform for civil society actors and tea workers and farmers to come together to challenge the tea industry and governments to reform the system, and support them in doing this.

Goals of THIRST


View our goals in detail here

Principles of THIRST

We call on all civil society organisations working to defend the rights and environment of tea workers and farmers to:

  1. Strive together and separately to promote the goals of THIRST, collaborating wherever joint action and a strong, unified civil society voice is likely to help achieve those goals
  2. Share information, knowledge and – where appropriate – resources to facilitate the achievement of the goals of THIRST, ensuring that this is done in such a way that will not compromise the work or reputation of any participating organisation.
  3. In pursuing our primary goal of  improving the lives of tea workers, tea farmers and their families, recognise that  each stakeholder in the tea sector is part of a complex, interdependent economic and social ecosystem and act accordingly.
  4. Both challenge and support companies and governments in delivering their responsibilities as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to protect, respect and provide remedy to tea workers and communities affected by global supply chains
  5. Work together to ensure that tea workers’ and farmers’ representatives take their rightful place at the discussion table and that their voice is heard by actors along global supply chains.
  6. Respect each other’s goals and ways of working and avoid acting in any way that undermines other THIRST members or their work.

How does it work?

THIRST invites civil society organisations – national, local and international, from the global South and North, from tea producing and tea consuming countries – to share their knowledge, expertise and resources on supporting tea workers and farmers to protect their rights and their environment.

We publish a monthly update of tea-related news from around the world, convene discussions and publish briefings on topical issues, and facilitate strategic connections between diverse actors.

THIRST also provides a platform for civil society to speak out when necessary with a strong, unified voice, challenging and supporting companies and governments to deliver on their responsibilities in the tea sector, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and contributing towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Who we are working with

THIRST is an open and independent platform for any and all civil society actors whose work promotes THIRST’s goals. THIRST does not endorse or promote the organisations it works with, and if necessary will seek changes within those organisations if this will help to further our goals.

THIRST is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the globe. ETI’s vision is a world where all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, and enjoy conditions of freedom, security and equity. Membership entitles us to participation in ETI’s tripartite initiatives, and enables us to engage in dialogue with key tea marketing and retailing companies.

As a member of the ETI, THIRST facilitates meetings with other ETI NGO members with an interest in tea. These include:


THIRST is a partner of Advocates for International Development

A4ID brokers free legal support for us as a development partner by matching our needs with the capability of its legal partners, who have a wide range of expertise, from microfinance work and dispute resolution to work involving environmental law.


Nikhil Subbiah

Chair of Trustees

Nikhil is an investment funds lawyer at a leading global law firm, with experience working with impact investments, development finance institutions and in emerging markets. He was previously a Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow and conducted a research trip to tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka.

Debbie Coulter OBE


An active trade unionist for over 30 yrs, Debbie was elected Deputy General Secretary of the GMB Trade Union in 2003. She served 5yrs as an ACAS Council Member and as a commissioner on the Women and Work Commission into Equal Pay and on the Commission for Vulnerable Employment. She was awarded an OBE for service to Employment Relations in 2008. She joined the Ethical Trading Initiative as Head of Programmes in 2011 bringing together companies, trade unions and NGO members to drive long-term, sustainable change for workers in global supply chains. Now retired, she works voluntarily for a number of charitable organisations.

Sabita Banerji

CEO and Founder

Sabita was born and raised on tea plantations in Kerala and Assam. She has nearly 20 years experience working in ethical trade and international development having held strategic posts at Oxfam and the Ethical Trading Initiative. She was previously a member of the Board of Directors of Just Change, UK – a voluntary community tea trading initiative.

Krishanti Dharmaraj


Krishanti is Executive Director of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership. She co-founded the Sri Lanka Children’s Fund and is a member of Sri Lanka’s North East Women’s Network. She is on the Advisory Boards of Amnesty International and South Asia Democracy Watch among others.  She has also been a Board member of Amnesty International; Women, Law & Development; Horizons Foundation; and the Center for Asian Pacific Women.

Stirling Smith


Stirling is an independent ethical trade consultant and former Chief Technical Adviser for the International Labour Organisation in India. He has worked for DFID, British Council, Fair Labour Association, trade unions, NGOs and several companies.

Aarti Kapoor


Aarti is the founder and Executive Director of Embode, an international consultancy based in Bangkok and focused on human rights in business supply chains, child rights and protection as well as leadership development in non-profit organisations. Aarti is qualified as a lawyer in the UK and the US, and has almost 20 years of technical experience responding to human trafficking, forced labour, child exploitation, child labour and other related issues, particularly in the UK, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Art Prapha


Art Prapha is Senior Program Manager, Corporate Accountability at the Freedom Fund. Previously, Art co-led Oxfam’s global Supermarket Campaign, Behind the Barcodes; headed Oxfam in Thailand’s Private Sector team; cofounded the Coalition for Ethical & Sustainable Seafood; and worked on social enterprise programs to connect women-led, community-based enterprises to markets. He holds a BA in Accounting & Commercial Law from Victoria University, Wellington and an MA in International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science; and is pursuing an Executive MBA at Judge Business School, Cambridge University.

Associate Consultants

Alysha Shivji

Alysha is a researcher with a PhD from the Business and Human Rights Catalyst at the Alliance Manchester Business School. She conducted a case study with the Fair Food Program and its Worker-driven Social Responsibility paradigm for her PhD and to support the Office of the High Commissioner’s Accountability and Remedy Project. Prior to her doctoral studies, Alysha attended Stanford University for her undergraduate and master’s in Sociology. Her master’s research focused on anti-trafficking work. Alysha has also worked as a Research Analyst at Apple.

Caroline Sloan

Caroline qualified as a lawyer and has years of experience in the international energy sector. She now provides research, training and advisory services on sustainability, human rights and corporate accountability, and is an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes Business School.

Justin Rippon

Justin Rippon started his career in the Tea industry in 1997, mostly on the commercial side, as a trader, the majority of which was spent in Africa, and more recently for Van Rees in Malawi and Kenya, managing buying, blending and export operations – before returning to senior management roles in Europe. Since 2021 Justin has worked as a specialist independent consultant advising on tea procurement and logistics strategies.

Independent Advisors to THIRST’s Human Rights Impact Assessment

  • Caroline Brodeur, Business and Human Rights Specialist, Oxfam America.
  • Jenny Costelloe, Executive Director, Ethical Tea Partnership.
  • Ottilie Cunningham, Tea Buyer, Fortnum and Mason. 
  • Narendranath Dharmaraj, Strategic Advisor and Operations Consultant in Tea. 
  • Ella Frankel, Senior Advisor: Food, Farming & Fisheries, Ethical Trading Initiative. 
  • Céline Gilart, Head of Social Impact & Sustainability, Twinings. 
  • Justin Rippon, Tea Procurement Consultant and 
  • THIRST Trustees