Sainsbury’s ‘Fairly Traded’ brand slammed by Fairtrade Foundation

Sainsbury’s is launching its own ‘Fairly Traded’ brand this month and the Fairtrade Foundation is not happy. The leading supermarket chain is describing its own-brand tea as “Fairly Traded”, but that is not the same thing as Fairtrade tea at all.

Fairtrade was launched in 1992 by a group of organisations including CAFOD, Christian Aid and Oxfam to work with businesses, consumers and campaigners to connect disadvantaged food producers in the developing world with consumers, to promote fairer trading conditions and empower the producers to combat poverty. It is well supported in Chiswick by the Chiswick Churches for Justice and Peace group, amongst others.

Key to their vision is the idea of empowerment – that they are enabling farmers to take more control over their lives by giving food producers a fair price and leaving it up to them to decide how they spend their money.

What is ‘Fair’?

It’s taken 25 years but the brand is now recognised as a hallmark of ethical food production. By launching their own scheme Sainsbury’s is muddying the waters and if other big supermarkets follow suit, the good work that has been built up over a quarter of a century risks being lost as confused consumers think there’s an equivalence between a variety of schemes which all claim to be ‘Fair’.

Sainsbury’s own-brand Red Label and Gold Label ranges used to be Fairtrade certified but the Fairtrade Foundation has announced that they will no longer give it their seal of approval.

Sainsbury’s say “Fairly Traded” will operate in a similar way to Fairtrade – by guaranteeing farmers a minimum price for their tea, and providing a premium per kilo on top of that for development projects, such as agricultural training and improving health and education facilities. But there is a key difference in how the premium will be paid to producers. Fairtrade’s premium fund is given directly to communities, with an association of farmers deciding how the money is used. Sainsbury’s “Fairly Traded” funds will be managed by the Sainsbury’s Foundation, which will work with the farmers to create ‘action plans’ for how to use the premium. In other words the farmers won’t have the same degree of control.

The Fairtrade Foundation says …

CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, Michael Gidney says: “we don’t believe the execution of this current model will, on balance, deliver positive changes for tea farmers”.

In an open letter, tea producers from across East and Central Africa and Southern Africa Networks of Fairtrade Africa wrote: “We told Sainsbury’s loud and clear: your model will bring about disempowerment. We are extremely concerned about the power and control that Sainsbury’s seeks to exert over us. We work for, OWN our product and OWN our premium. We see the proposed approach as an attempt to replace the autonomous role which Fairtrade brings and replace it with a model which no longer balances the power between producers and buyers.”

Sainsbury’s says:

“Our Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards will help their users – our tea farmers – to identify their particular strengths and weaknesses via a robust system of data collection, covering the full range of social, economic and environmental metrics. This will enable farmers to learn from each other, sharing best practice”. “The business case is clear. Our farmers and growers can expect financial security through long-term relationships and a greater level of support to help them plan for their futures. At the same time we safeguard the future quality and availability of the great British cuppa for our customers”. They point out that they remain the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer, stocking over 500 Fairtrade products.

We decided to have a look at where else in Chiswick is a Fairtrade stockist.
Grove Park Deli (Monmouth coffee)
As Nature Intended
Valentina Delicatessen (Dark chocolate hazlenut spread)

There must be other places. Let me know if you are a grocer in Chiswick which stocks FairTrade items or a consumer who knows of grocers which do. I would like to keep a list: