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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Campaigners tell Sainsbury’s to play fair over new trading brand

As Sainsbury’s focuses on its merger with supermarket chain Asda, consumers have demanded that the retail giant reconsider its decision to drop Fairtrade.

Protestors recently descended on Sainsbury’s AGM to call on the company to rethink plans to ditch using the Fairtrade mark on its own-brand Red Label tea in favour of its own ‘Fairly Traded’ brand.

The AGM focused on the ‘forthcoming marriage’ between Sainsbury’s and Asda, but protestors believe the focus should have been on those who were not ‘invited to the party’ – the small-scale producers and farmers in some of the poorest countries of the world who risk losing control over the how the money made from their goods can be spent.

Campaigners have expressed concern over a lack of clarity on how Sainsbury’s proposed scheme will work, in particular on how decisions will be reached on awarding the additional social premiums (a fund for workers, farmers and producers to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions) to farming and producer communities in poor southern countries.

While Sainsbury’s has said the ‘Fairly Traded’ scheme will operate in a similar way to Fairtrade, small scale producers say they are concerned that they will lose control over how the money made from their goods can be spent.

Sainsbury’s still refuse to answer questions on the ‘Fairly Traded’ brand, including how much money has been released to farmers and producers under the social premium and whether the company will keep its commitment to Fairtrade in its marriage to Asda, or will the merger be used to ditch Fairtrade?

British tea drinkers account for 80 per cent of Fairtrade tea sales globally and over 150,000 people have signed a petition calling on Sainsbury’s to rethink its actions on Fairtrade teas. Thousands of Catholics have joined organisations such as the WI and the NUS in supporting this campaign by lobbying local branches of Sainsbury’s and signing the petition. In fact, the Catholic community has shown enormous support for the Fairtrade scheme with a quarter of parishes – 500 in total – now Fairtrade.

Daniel Hale, director of campaigns at CAFOD, said: “We were disappointed when Sainsbury’s decided to ditch Fairtrade from some of its most popular products.

“A year on from the beginning of the ‘Fairly Traded’ tea pilot we have some big questions for Sainsbury’s to answer. We’d hate to see the world’s biggest retailer of Fairtrade lose sight of their principles in their hurry to hook up with Asda.

“As the biggest grocer in the country, Sainsbury’s could use its new power to change lives around the world by backing Fairtrade.”

Picture: A perfect marriage? While shareholders are concerned about the union between Sainsbury’s and Asda, Fairtrade campaigners think a better marriage would be one between the retail giants and poor, small producers. (CAFOD).