Sainsbury’s has recently come under criticism from the Fairtrade foundation as well as international development charities such as Oxfam and Christian Aid for its decision to drop the Fairtrade logo from its own branded tea, and replace it with Sainsbury’s own standard named ‘Fairly Traded’.
Sainsburys’s claims the Fairtrade certification is outdated and doesn’t address the impact of climate change on farmers. Under the new standard, the supermarket says it will offer farmers support on adapting to climate change, which is not offered by Fairtrade. The Fairtrade website however specifically states that through its sustainability work with farmers, it helps producers adapt to climate change and mitigate the impact on their produce.
Whilst Sainsbury’s says that under its own scheme it will still guarantee farmers a minimum price for their crop, as well as a “social premium” towards community initiatives such as building schools and training in better agricultural techniques; the key difference of this new scheme is that Sainsbury’s themselves would control the funds and control how the funds are used.
For many, this represents a breach of trust. Under the Fairtrade scheme, the local communities themselves decide how the money is spent and Fairtrade do not hold onto that money. Significantly this empowerment for the local farmers and communities, allows them to make their own decisions about their futures.
Fairtrade is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of the people who grow the things we love. This is done by changing the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fair deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. Empowerment is at the heart of what the Fairtrade label stands for. Farmers and workers have an equal say in everything Fairtrade does.
The reason this decision by Sainsbury’s is so significant is that currently Sainsbury’s is the world’s biggest Fairtrade retailer. One of the biggest Fairtrade products is tea. Malawi which is one of the countries to be enrolled in Sainsbury’s new scheme, currently exports 90% of its tea crop to the UK. It’s also one of the poorest countries in the world with around 75% of its population living below the international poverty line.
Sainsbury’s continues to defend the new scheme, but as customers, there are many questions we should ask.
- Can customers really trust a scheme that self regulates? Sainsbury’s would run and manage this new scheme themselves.
- With Sainsbury’s controlling the funding and deciding how it will be spent, what is the maximum amount of time that Sainsbury’s will hold onto that money?
- Will the farmers be forced to comply with other regulations in order to be given access to the ‘Fairly Traded’ funding?
- Does Sainsbury’s have the appropriate in-house expertise working with farmers in developing countries to understand the financial priorities and needs in these communities which extend beyond farming?
- Will the minimum price and social premium paid to farmers be at and remain at the same level as that offered by the Fairtrade agreement?
Lastly, has Sainsbury’s grossly underestimated the strength of feeling amongst its own customers when it comes to Fairtrade? A strength of feeling that the supermarket itself has worked hard to grow? Sainsbury’s has been a huge supporter of Fairtrade over the years and played a key part in building up recognition of the brand amongst UK consumers.
As consumers, we have an important voice and a big role to play. Fairtrade works well for some of the most marginalised farmers in the world. It’s widely recognised and respected as a brand and independent of shareholders. Please sign the petition below to call for Sainsburys to keep the Fairtrade logo and continue to be the big supporter of Fairtrade that it has become.
There are a few petitions on change.org click here or