Kent tea company takes prize for social responsibility in Cathay Pacific Awards

L to r: Joe D’Armenia, director and founder of Herbal Health; Angus Barclay, general manager Europe for Cathay Pacific; Duncan McDonald, general Manager of Herbal Health; Sarah Butler, sales and marketing manager for Herbal Health

L to r: Joe D’Armenia, director and founder of Herbal Health; Angus Barclay, general manager Europe for Cathay Pacific; Duncan McDonald, general Manager of Herbal Health; Sarah Butler, sales and marketing manager for Herbal Health

Herbal Health, a family-run Kent-based business producing a range of organic, Fairtrade and natural China teas under the brand name Qi, has been named the winner of the Social Responsibility category at the Cathay Pacific China Business Awards 2012, which took place at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Friday, 18 January 2013.

With trade opportunities between the West and China continuing to build on an annual basis, Cathay Pacific’s eighth annual China Business Awards acknowledge and celebrate UK and Irish business dynamism and success in China and Hong Kong. The achievements of the winning organisations were recognised at the awards ceremony by HSBC’s global head of trade & receivables finance, James Emmett and Cathay Pacific’s general manager Europe, Angus Barclay, in front of a room of leading dignitaries from the UK, China and Hong Kong; including Lord Wilson of the House of Lords and Lord Wei of the House of Parliament. 

A panel of judges made up of senior representatives from Cathay Pacific, The China-Britain Business Council, HSBC and The Daily Telegraph reviewed numerous entries before choosing Herbal Health as the winner of the Social Responsibility Award. One of three categories, the Social Responsibility Award recognises initiatives from any company or not-for-profit organisation that has benefited China in a socially responsible manner. Winners of the other two categories included Jaguar Land Rover China and BSI (British Standards Institution). Fei Liu Jewellery was also awarded a special mention at the ceremony.

Inspired by the ancient Chinese teachings that Qi is the life-force, Herbal Health introduced the first Organic China Garden Tea into the UK at a time when Green Tea was relatively unknown and now has a range of 30 teas which are sold around the world. Today it has a wholly-owned subsidiary company in China, and the business model is based on a close collaboration between individual farmers and their families and Herbal Health as the international marketer of a final product produced locally in the area of the tea gardens. The Fair Trade Premium allows the farmers and their families to share in the commercial profits. This business model has served over the last 15 years to transform the lives of the local people who have been involved in this project.

The judges were impressed that Herbal Health was instrumental in setting up the first Fair Trade initiative in China in 1999/2000. The Fair Trade approach helps ensure the benefits of the product make their way back to the producer. Its close collaboration with regional farming communities and commitment to initiating social projects involving the construction of primary schools in remote villages highlighted long-term plans that benefit Chinese communities in a socially responsible manner.

Joe D’Armenia, director and founder of Herbal Health, said: “We really are delighted to receive this prestigious Award for Social Responsibility. To be recognised for our long-standing involvement and continued investment in the community in China where our teas are grown, is really important to us. It helps to highlight the fact that being socially responsible can be a successful and profitable business model which benefits everyone. We are really proud of being a good and ethical company where people and the environment come before profits, so everybody wins – Qi Teas, our farmers, their families, our wholesalers and their customers.” 

Barclay at Cathay Pacific, said: “These awards celebrate and reward talent, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit for which the UK and Republic of Ireland are renowned. The standard of entries has been consistently high in recent years with stiff competition and we hope that the business awards will encourage other businesses and provide them with the opportunity to receive the recognition they deserve. As Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, we have a strong affinity with business travellers having been flying business men and women between the UK and Hong Kong, and on into China for the last 30 years, and are delighted to promote, encourage and applaud strong business links between the two regions. Congratulations to all of our winners.”

The awards are overseen by an advisory panel which includes Agnes Allcock, director general of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO), Sir David Brewer, chairman of the China Britain Business Council (CBBC), Baroness Dunn, chairman of The Hong Kong Association, Douglas Flint, group chairman of HSBC, Nick Baird, chief executive of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), John Slosar, chief executive of Cathay Pacific and The Right Honourable Lord Wei of Shoreditch.