Thursday the 25th of February

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

Sainsbury’s in hot water over Fairtrade tea

Sainsbury’s has been told to be clear that its own Fairly Traded brand is separate to the Fairtrade scheme in future following a complaint that it was misleading shoppers.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling comes as CAFOD accused the retailer of putting farmers at risk.

“Sainsbury’s has always been a massive supporter of Fairtrade, but its pilot ditching Fairtrade on its own brand tea risks undermining the fantastically successful Fairtrade certification scheme,” said Daniel Hale, head of campaigns at CAFOD.

“They’re putting a lifeline for farmers at risk. It also confuses consumers and I’m pleased the ASA agrees.

“We want Sainsbury’s to do the right thing here by listening to its customers, reversing this unpopular decision and putting the Fairtrade mark back on its own brand tea,” he added.

Last summer Sainsbury’s, Britain’s biggest Fairtrade retailer, set up its own Fairly Traded brand for tea in a move that was condemned by NGOs, shoppers and politicians.

David Nieberg, Sainsbury’s head of media relations, said the move was because Fairtrade was “not bringing as much benefit to farmers as it could”.

But Labour MP Stella Creasy challenged whether the claim ‘Fairly Traded’ on the supermarket’s website misleadingly suggested a connection to the Fairtrade scheme. Sainsbury’s said the ad did not suggest a connection to the Fairtrade scheme. Since starting the scheme they had clearly marked the tea and had never claimed that it was linked to the Fairtrade Foundation or Fairtrade International.
Sainsbury’s said the website ad demonstrated how clearly they had labelled Fairly Traded products using a distinctive red and black logo.

The ASA said the Fairtrade scheme run by the Fairtrade Foundation was the most well known, but consumers might not know about others.

The ASA said: “We considered the fact that their own-brand products using two different fair trade schemes was likely to cause confusion for consumers, who might assume that the packaging was using ‘Fairly Traded’ as a descriptive term to convey that it was part of the official Fairtrade scheme.

“Because we considered the ad did not make sufficiently clear that ‘Fairly Traded’ related to a separate scheme run by Sainsbury’s, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased the ASA recognises the high ethical standards of our Fairly Traded tea pilot.

“We note their comments about the online advert and this has been updated accordingly.”

Read more stories like this one in this week’s Universe.
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Picture: Supermarket retailer Sainsbury’s has been told to clear up confusion over its own Fairly Traded brand of tea. (John Stillwell/PA).