Co-op and M&S named UK's most ethical supermarkets
End of big shop presents great opportunity for ethics
We have named the Co-op and Marks & Spencer as the UK's most ethical supermarkets in our latest guide to supermarkets. Waitrose are also named as the most ethical online supermarket.
With the weekly big shop now rapidly disappearing, we believe this presents a great opportunity for savvy shoppers to shop around for their food by mixing and matching at our top scoring supermarkets and their local stores.
Cash-strapped shoppers can even pick up ethically-labelled bargains such as Fairtrade coffee and ethically-certified fresh fish at either Aldi or Lidl.
However The Co-op and M&S have come out on top because with the exception of Waitrose, their pioneering ethical and environmental policies are way ahead of all other UK supermarkets and are now firmly embedded in their operations.
Spotlight on discounters
The guide also sees the ethical track record of Aldi and Lidl fall under the spotlight for the first time, up until now the discounters have avoided much scrutiny in the UK. The surprising finding was that the ethical performance of the German discounters wasn't as bad as many were expecting.
Given the scale of discounts that both Aldi and Lidl offer and their pared-down business model, we had expected that ethical policies would be thin on the ground. Whilst they won't win any prizes, we were genuinely surprised by the level of ethical engagement that both Aldi and Lidl displayed.
A shop survey of Aldi and Lidl revealed that:
- a good range of Fairtrade items were available,
- only a limited range of organic vegetables were on display,
- neither supermarket sold any organic meat.
Low scores all round
Despite coming joint first, both the Co-op and Marks & Spencer scored relatively poorly on Ethical Consumer's ethical scoring system, indicating that the UK supermarket sector still has much work to do to improve its overall ethical and environmental performance.
Whilst Waitrose comes top of Ethical Consumer's ratings' table, it is not recommended as a Best Buy because it only gained a middle rating for the management of workers' rights in its supply chain.
The bottom scoring three supermarkets are Asda, Sainsbury's and disappointingly Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer.
Must do more
Supermarkets need far more robust policies on a vast swathe of ethical issues including treating their suppliers fairly to their continued support of inhumane factory farming. UK supermarkets still have such a long way to go ethically that in most cases your local independent grocery store or wholefood shop will be the most ethical place to shop.
See how they compare in our guide to supermarkets >
Read our report on the supermarket industry >