Supermarkets

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 13 supermarkets.

We also look at an A-Z of policies from palm oil to cocoa production, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Tesco and give our recommended buys. 

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying from supermarkets:

  • Is it Fairtrade? The food industry notoriously relies on overworked and underpaid labours to grow its agricultural ingredients and products. Look for the Fairtrade logo to ensure that the people behind your products are treated fairly.

  • Is it organic? The use of pesticides and herbicides is rife in the agricultural industry and causes serious environmental harms, from its impact on bee populations to its reliance on fossil fuels. Go for organic products.

  • Is it sustainably sourced? Palm oil, cocoa, fish and a myriad of other ingredients have their own issues in terms of human and environmental rights. Look for products that have been sustainably sourced, and which have independent certification to prove it. 

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying from supermarkets:

  • Does it contain GMOs? Genetically modified seeds and crops bind growers to powerful multinationals producing agricultural chemicals. These companies have been criticised for seriously exploiting small-scale farmers. Look for organic to be sure that you are avoiding GMOs.

  • Is it packaged in plastic? The plastic in our oceans could circle the planet 400 times. It is threatening marine ecosystems and contributing to climate change. Opt for products with minimal plastic packaging.

  • Is it factory farmed? Factory farming causes suffering for animals and contributes to climate change. For a more sustainable shop, look for vegan products.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Our Analysis

Supermarkets are a staple ingredient in many of our lives. The incredible convenience and cheap prices of these shops are a pull that is hard to resist, even for those of us who feel they embody all that is wrong with our industrialised food system. 

Today we spend proportionally less of our income on food than at any time in history. 

With supermarkets at the powerful, consumer end of the supply chain, the price of our cheap food – and a whole range of other products – is often paid by the producers.

Even in the UK, farmers find it hard to cover costs; when supply chains span continents and involve commodity markets, the reality at the production end may be as extreme as forced child labour. This is found extensively in both cotton and cocoa production. It is often via supermarkets that such ingredients find their way into our homes.

Leonie discusses her research into Supermarkets

For companies with a business model that depends on purchasing from commodity markets – or purchasing from those that purchase from commodity markets – the only credible way of addressing serious problems in supply chains is to buy certified products. Even then, there are no guarantees: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the Forest Stewardship Council are both examples of certification schemes that have been roundly criticised for certifying unethical production units.

Nevertheless, certified products and ingredients are an improvement on those of which it is not possible to trace to their origin, those which could have been produced under harsh conditions with few possibilities for redress.

Asda & Sainsbury's

The shock announcement, in April 2018, that two of the UK’s biggest food retailers – Sainsbury’s and Asda – plan to merge, led to a wave of concern over the further concentration of the UK’s food retailer market. If it goes ahead, the merger is estimated to give them a market share of 31.4%; Tesco – the UK’s largest retailer – currently has a market share of 27.6%.

In our last report on supermarkets, we argued that their low prices are often paid for by those in their supply chains who can least afford it.

With the threat of the merger between two of the largest supermarkets, there is real potential for progress to be rolled back. Sainsbury’s has announced that the merger could lead to price cuts in their stores of “around 10% on many of the products customers buy regularly” – such cuts are often passed on to suppliers. And according to one study by the New Economics Foundation up to 2,500 jobs could be at risk as a result of the merger.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator – which regulates the relationship between supermarkets and their direct suppliers within the UK – has helped to curb some of the abusive practices employed by the retailers. Disappointingly, the government recently decided not to extend its remit to cover supermarkets’ relationship to farmers / growers and processors, slaughterhouses and manufacturers.

Ethical Consumer Scoretable

In conducting the research for this Product Guide, Ethical Consumer has assessed the full range of products sold by the companies featured and reviewed the strategies in place to mitigate risk of abuses in supply chains. Where there are inadequate policies, companies are marked down in the relevant categories.

In addition, we have applied our usual ethical filters. This includes checking the mainstream media, and news from campaign groups, an assessment of company tax policies, looking for operations in oppressive regimes, recording political donations and checking for membership of corporate lobby groups.

Given the size and supply chains of the companies in this guide, it is perhaps little wonder that they are clustered around the bottom of the Ethiscore table. The research has also produced the counter-intuitive result that Booths, which has virtually no Corporate Social Responsibility reporting, sits towards the top of the table. This is due to its limited own-brand product offerings.

Currently our Best Buy recommendations in this market are the Co-op and Marks & Spencer. Waitrose is third, but is being chased by the discounters Aldi and Lidl. 

Aldi UK has developed some clear policies around particular issues. For instance, in January 2018, its cosmetics range was certified cruelty free and in the latest Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare it moved up a level to tier 3. Waitrose, on the other hand, has been consistently rated tier 1 in the report for its leadership on policies around animal welfare.

Where Aldi falls short is in its policies for other countries. Ethical Consumer considers the policies and practices of the whole group; therefore, we would want to see that policies apply to its global operations and not just the UK.

Bringing up the rear are the largest four retailers in the UK. Over the past year the ‘big four’ – Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons – have been focusing on attracting customers who are increasingly shopping at the discounters Aldi and Lidl.

This has represented a move for some away from a focus on sustainable practices. Sainsbury’s highlighted this in June 2017, when it announced that it planned to stop using Fairtrade-certified produce, preferring to use its own ‘Fairly Traded’ label instead.

A pioneer of the use of the Fairtrade label for many of its own-branded products, the move was seen by many as a sign of retailers reducing their commitments to producers. Tesco also announced a switch of its coffee from Fairtrade to the less rigorous certification scheme, Rainforest Alliance.
 

Animal Rights

All companies covered lose a full mark in this category for selling factory-farmed meat. In addition, we have looked at the non-food animal products and ingredients sold, including leather, silk, merino wool, and down and feathers.

Bee welfare

Our Product Guide to honey, produced in collaboration with Friends of the Earth, uncovered a number of inhumane practices in industrial honey production, such as clipping wings and the culling of hives after honey is collected. We also found that few organisations were putting pressure on companies to restrict these practices.

Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have all had programmes to assist bee populations which focus on biodiversity and/or habitat. However, none of the companies in this guide have policies to address bee welfare in their own supply chains; we urge supermarkets to include bees in their animal welfare strategies.

Animal testing

Companies losing half a mark in this category have robust non-animal testing policies for their own brand supply chains but sell branded products from other companies which conduct animal testing. Those that lose a full mark have no or inadequate policies for their own-brand products and ingredients.

Animal welfare

Ranking company performance for animal welfare strategies is a big and complex undertaking. Fortunately, the Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare now does this annually. The project has been a key driver in pushing companies to improve their practices in recent years. 

Companies in this guide have been ranked in the following tiers by the BBFAW.

  • Tier 1- Leadership: Marks & Spencer, Waitrose
  • Tier 2 – Integral to Business Strategy: Co-op, Tesco
  • Tier 3 – Established but work to be done: Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda 
  • Tier 4 – Making progress on implementation: Aldi, Lidl

(Not ranked: Booths, Spar, Iceland, Ocado)

Climate Change

Companies may talk a lot about what they are doing in the area of climate change but often it is a lot of hot air.

Image: Supermarket Fridges

Below we present the information we have found on issues we consider key: whether companies provide meaningful carbon disclosure (that is, absolute Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions); whether they have reduced emissions and future targets to reduce emissions, and whether they produce or buy any renewable energy.

Aldi

  • 94% of electricity used in 2015 from renewable energy sources. Solar panels at all eight UK Regional Distribution Centres and 240 shops, total 600,000 panels.
  • Absolute GHG emissions disclosed.
  • Performance 2014 – reduction in absolute GHG by 8.6% despite increase in number of stores.
  • Target: reduce greenhouse gas emissions per square metre of sales area by 30% by the year 2020 against the year 2012.

Asda

  • 3.8 MW of solar PV installed.
  • Absolute GHG emissions not disclosed.
  • Performance 2015 – 19% energy reduction intensity from 2010 base. 
  • Target: 30% renewable energy by 2020.
  • 100 stores have charging points for electric cars.

Booths

Has made public a comprehensive breakdown of the carbon footprint of its direct operations and those in its supply chain (such as meat and dairy and flown or hot-housed vegetables) for 2013-14.

Co-op

  • 2015 – sourced 99% of its electricity from renewables including 15% from its own renewable energy projects. 
  • Target: generate the equivalent of 25% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2017.
  • Target: reduce its direct greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020 compared to 2006.
  • Absolute GHG emissions disclosed.

Iceland

  • Achieved an absolute reduction in carbon emissions of 8% by 2015 (base year unclear, may be 2007).
  • Absolute GHG emissions not disclosed.

Lidl

  • No carbon disclosure or targets.

Marks & Spencer

  • Claims to be the only major retailer in the world with carbon neutral global operations.
  • Has reduced CO2e emissions by 23% since baseline year 2006/7.
  • 2016 – 100% of electricity purchased for UK and Ireland stores and offices from renewable sources.
  • Absolute GHG emissions disclosed.

Morrisons

  • 23.6% absolute reduction in carbon emissions since 2005.
  • Target: 30% absolute reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (2006 baseline)
  • Absolute GHG emissions not disclosed.

Ocado

  • Disclosed GHG emissions for three consecutive years to 2014/15. 

Sainsbury’s

  • Renewable energy infrastructure across its estate includes 170,000 solar panels, 98 biomass boilers and 27 Ground Source Heat Pumps. 
  • 2016 – 0.3% lower operational carbon emissions against 2005/06 baseline, with 51% growth in sales area.
  • Target: by 2020, reduce carbon emissions by 30% absolute and 65% relative (to 2005).
  • Absolute GHG emissions not disclosed.

Tesco

  • 2016 reduced net carbon intensity per sq. ft. of retail and distribution floor space by 1.8% compared to 2015, and 41.7% since 2006/07.
  • In 2015/16 generated 10,000 MWh of electricity from own solar and wind power investments and in 2016 invested a further £8 million in solar power in Thailand.
  • Target: to halve carbon emissions per square foot of stores and distribution centres by 2020. 
  • Absolute GHG emissions disclosed.

Waitrose (John Lewis Partnership)

  • Has achieved 57.3% reduction in carbon intensity (tonnes per £million sales) against 2010 levels.
  • Target: 65% reduction by 2020/21.
  • Purchased renewable electricity since 2011 (quantities not disclosed).

Cocoa

The problem of child labour in West African cocoa production – sometimes involving slavery and trafficking – first hit the headlines 15 years ago. Evidence suggests that the response from chocolate companies, retailers and the international community has been woefully inadequate: research has found that 2.1 million children were engaged in inappropriate forms of child labour in Ivory Coast and Ghana in the 2013-14 growing season – a 21% increase in just five years.

Image: Cocoa production

We have marked companies down in the Workers’ Rights category if they sell own-brand products containing uncertified cocoa, on the basis that 15 years is long enough to get their supply chains in order. We looked for Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification. Lidl was the only company not to be marked down. 

Aldi: In the UK, 56% of the cocoa in the company’s own-label chocolates, biscuits, seasonal confectionery, and products with more than 10% cocoa, is certified. Target: 100% certified by 2020.

Co-op: Target: All cocoa in Co-op brand products will be sourced on Fairtrade terms by 27 May 2017. Block chocolate Fairtrade certified since 2002 (a pioneer at the time). All own brand choclate confectionery is Fairtrade.

Lidl UK: 100% certified.

Marks & Spencer: 38% cocoa certified by the Fairtrade Foundation, Rainforest Alliance, Soil Association (organic) or UTZ. Target: 95% from verified sustainable sources by April 2017.

Sainsbury’s: “Many” own brand products contain certified cocoa according to the company. Target: Sustainably sourced cocoa by 2020.

Tesco: Target: 100% cocoa responsibly sourced by 2018.

Waitrose: Nearly all own-brand block chocolate Fairtrade certified. No public deadline to certify all cocoa products; claims to be working on it.

Asda and Morrisons: Some certified products but no public commitments.

Booths, Iceland, Ocado: No evidence of certified products or policies.

Cotton

Cotton is a problematic crop for three key reasons. Forced labour is rife in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan, a source of much of Europe’s cotton. It is also highly chemically intensive, covering 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet using 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other major crop. Thirdly, genetically modified cotton accounted for 75% of cotton grown in 2015.

Image: Uzbekistan cotton picker

In India, the introduction of GM cotton has been linked to spiralling farmer debt and a huge wave of suicides– over the last 20 years 290,000 farmers have committed suicide.

Companies selling own-brand cotton products are therefore marked down in three categories if they have inadequate policies: Workers’ Rights, Pollution and Toxics and Controversial Technologies.

Asda: Wal-Mart has signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s Pledge Against Forced Child Labor in the Uzbek Cotton Sector.

Lidl: Uzbek cotton is banned in its products. Target: share of textiles made up of organic cotton 10% by the end of 2017. Phasing out the use of (genetically modified) Bt Cotton in the production of own-brand labels.

Marks & Spencer: No cotton from Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan. Regular audits of suppliers conducted to ensure compliance. 

In 15/16, 42% cotton sourced from sustainable sources, defined as Better Cotton Initiative, Fairtrade, Organic or recycled. Target: 70% from sustainable sources by 2020.

“On the use of GM cotton our position is neutral – we leave it to the farmer to decide which is best for them.”

Sainsbury’s: no cotton from Uzbekistan. Target: 100% sustainable cotton by 2020.

Tesco: No Uzbek cotton. Signed Responsible Sourcing Network’s cotton pledge in 2014.

Waitrose: No Uzbek cotton, but the position of John Lewis Partnership is unclear.

Target: by year end 2020/21 50% of cotton in own-brand products will come from sustainable sources.

Aldi, Morrisons: No policies.

Booths, Co-op Ocado, Spar: Not applicable. 

Fish

The sustainability of fish sources is an issue of increasing concern to consumers. Those who want to choose certified sustainable, traceable wild seafood can opt for Marine Stewardship Council certified products. The organisation’s latest league table, published in March 2017, shows a big difference in the availability of certified seafood in supermarkets, as the chart below shows.

Supermarket MSC products % of wild seafood range
Sainsbury's

225 

72
Waitrose 112 67
Tesco 96 33
Lidl 86 65
Aldi 74 69
Co-op 37 42
M&S 21 13
ASDA 17 12
Morrisons 3 2

See our ethical shopping guide to Tinned Tuna for more ethical issues surrounding the fishing industry. 

Living Wage

Last time we covered supermarkets, in 2015, we found that none were offering staff in the UK the real Living Wage. We also put the spotlight on the discounters and asked whether the cheap prices at Aldi and Lidl came with a heavier ethical cost.

Interestingly, it is on this issue that Lidl and Aldi have made a stand: at the end of 2016, Lidl announced a wage hike for its UK staff bringing the lowest paid up to the Living Wage Foundation’s minimum – £8.45 outside of London and £9.75 in the capital. Two weeks later Aldi matched its London rate and pushed theirs up higher for outside London, to £8.53.

The new rate beats the Government’s national ‘Living Wage’ (criticised for not meeting the cost of living) of £7.20 an hour, which will go up to £7.50 in April. It is 91p an hour more than Tesco pays, and 87p an hour more than Sainsbury’s.

Other retailers have responded that their package of entitlements, such as payment during breaks (which Lidl does not do), enhanced sick and holiday pay, discounts and pensions, boost workers’ pay above headline rates.

Packaging

In January 2018, a Guardian investigation found that Britain’s leading supermarkets create more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year – well over half of all annual UK household plastic waste of 1.5m tonnes.

In response, the government has proposed policies including plastics-free aisles in supermarkets, while retailers and consumer brand companies have promised to tackle plastic through the UK Plastic Pact initiative. This voluntary initiative brings together waste and resources specialist charity WRAP, the UK government and companies to tackle the scourge of plastic waste.

By 2025, The UK Plastics Pact hopes to have transformed the UK plastic packaging sector by meeting the following four targets:

  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
  • Eliminate single-use packaging: take actions to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging items through redesign, innovation, or alternative (reuse) delivery models.
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging. 

Currently Asda, Aldi, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have all signed up to the initiative. The Co-operative has set its own target of 80% of its products having packaging that is easy to recycle by 2020.

However the supermarkets could go further. Joanna Blythman in the Grocer recently called out M&S and Waitrose’s use of excess plastic arguing that it “didnt sit well with their premium positioning”.

Customers have voiced their dismay at the over use of packaging by highlighting examples on Twitter.  Others, such as Keynsham Plastic Re-Action Group, have taken this one step further by ripping the excess wrapping off their goods and dumping it at the tills. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace UK have just announced they are conducting a survey of major UK grocery retailers, their use of single-use plastic packaging and their targets to reduce it. The results are due out in the autumn.

On-pack recycling label

In addition to the supermarkets signing up to voluntary packaging targets, retailers and consumer brands have also signed up to another initiative called On-Pack Recycling Label which shows consumers whether packaging is recyclable or not. All the supermarkets in this guide have signed up to the initiative.

Palestine

Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Tesco now all have policies not to source from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Waitrose says that its produce “comes from internationally recognised (pre-1967) borders” but the position of John Lewis Partnership is unclear.

Palm Oil

Deforestation associated with palm oil production in South East Asia and, increasingly, West Africa is also a major issue of concern for consumers. Below we present supermarkets’ headline figures for the proportion of palm oil products (palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives) used in 2015 that was certified sustainable by the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil. 

Supermarkets who receive Ethical Consumer’s best rating for their palm oil sourcing policies are Waitrose and M&S. All the rest of the supermarkets receive our middle rating.

Image: Palm Oil deforestation

Aldi: did source 100% RSPO-certified palm oil for all its food items in the UK, however this did not cover non-food items. It aimed to have non-food items covered by RSPO by the end of 2018.

Asda: Asda’s figures, presented on its website, stated 99.8% of its palm oil was through RSPO.

Co-op: 100% of palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 53% segregated.

Iceland: In April 2018, frozen food retailer Iceland announced that, by the end of 2018, all its own-branded products will no longer contain palm oil. Richard Walker, Iceland Managing Director said, “Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’. We don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil available to retailers, so we are giving consumers a choice about what they buy.”

Lidl: stated that it aimed to have achieved 100% RSPO-certified palm oil by the end of 2017 for own-branded products. However, its ACOP only presented figures for its German operations, therefore it was not possible to verify its claims.

Marks & Spencer: 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 51% segregated. Company gained best rating due to additional positive initiatives: it expected zero deforestation commitments to apply to all the palm oil produced or traded by importers and it asked its suppliers to report annually on where their palm oil came from.

Morrisons: 98% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 45% through a segregated mechanism.

Sainsbury’s: 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 60% segregated.

Tesco (UK operations only): 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 68% segregated.

Waitrose: 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 64% segregated. Company gained best rating due to additional positive initiatives: Buying Greenpalm certificates from smallholder projects; ‘zero deforestation’ commitment; traceability to mills.

Booths, Ocado, Spar: No public policies

Sugar

In August 2016, the Government published ‘Childhood obesity: A plan for action’. The commitment – to be overseen by Public Health England (PHE) challenges all sectors of the food industry to reduce by 20% the level of sugar in all of the categories that contribute most to children’s sugar intake, by 2020, starting with a 5% reduction by August 2017.

The eight categories are biscuits; breakfast cereals; chocolate confectionery; ice cream, lollies and sorbets; puddings; sweet spreads / sauces; sweet confectionery; and yogurts / fromage frais.

In May 2018, PHE released its first report into the industry’s efforts, showing that the food industry has failed to cut sugar by 5%. The results varied across different food categories, with sweet spreads, yogurts, and breakfast cereals achieving the reduction. However very little or no sugar reduction was achieved across biscuits and chocolate bars. Puddings have actually become sweeter.

The Guardian reported “By contrast with the voluntary 5% sugar reduction in foods, the tough measure taken against sugary drinks in the form of the sugar tax is getting results.”

The PHE report said that sugar has been reduced by 11% in soft drinks and the average calories in a single drink are down by 6%.

Of the big four supermarkets Tesco has cut sugar content across the largest number of categories, including soft drinks. For example, it has reformulated 49 soft drinks products, reducing the average sugar content from 9.2 g to 4.5 g sugar per 100 ml – a staggering 47.8% sugar reduction across the range. PHE said this meant that by “October 2017, 23,000 tonnes of sugar were removed from customer diets”.

Morrisons has reduced sugar content across six categories, and Asda, seven. 

Sainsbury’s appears to have reduced sugar content in two categories.

PHE said “Work is continuing to move forward in other areas of the wider reformulation programme which will ultimately lead to a broader programme covering more areas of concern in relation to UK diets and the public’s health. This work includes the setting of calorie reduction guidelines and reviewing progress on salt reduction.”

The next report on sugar reduction is due out in Spring 2019.

Timber and derived products

The production of timber and derived products is an obvious driver of global deforestation. As with palm oil, Ethical Consumer’s rating looks beyond the use of certified products; below we present the key information from each company. 

Aldi: In 2016, over half of products in the UK containing paper or wood were PEFC- or FSC-certified or 100% recycled. Target: 100% certified by 2020.

Asda: Target: all timber and timber products from sustainable sources by 2020. 

Co-op: In 2015, 82.5% of timber-derived Co-op own brand products sold were FSC-certified and 12.5% came from recycled post-consumer waste. Target (undated): 100% certified.

Lidl: No figures disclosed. Company says: “We source virgin pulp from certified sources (FSC, PEFC) for all our hygiene paper products, soft beverage cartons and all communication materials. We are continuing to increase the proportion of our other products and packaging sourced from certified sources.”

Marks & Spencer: 100% responsibly sourced – goods for resale and also in packaging, marketing, etc. 72% FSC-certified. All suppliers required to acknowledge the right of indigenous people and rural communities to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before new logging rights were allocated or plantations developed.

Morrisons: 16% of own brand home and leisure products FSC-certified or equivalent; 88% of own-brand household and beauty products FSC or recycled. Target: 100% sustainable by 2020.

Sainsbury’s: 93% of wood used in own-brand products in 2014/15 (excluding nappies) was from recycled, PEFC- or FSC-Certified sources with FSC making up 78% and FSC recycled 9%. Target: all paper/timber in own-brand products from sustainable sources by 2020.

Tesco: 59% of timber sales FSC-certified. Target: all wood-fibre materials in products will be from recycled sources or certified to FSC or PEFC standard by 2020.

Waitrose: 95% own-brand timber and paper products sustainably sourced (certified or recycled). John Lewis – 19% of own-brand products certified sustainable and 4% verified responsible (non-controversial sources and pre-and post-consumer waste).

Target: 100% responsible and sustainable sources by 2020.  

Alternative 'Supermarket' Network

For the simplest alternative to supermarkets, find your local independent wholefood shop – the Whole Food Action website has a directory.

There are some truly inspiring businesses out there. The likes of Unicorn Grocery in Manchester and Hisbe in Brighton will cater for a weekly food shop, with the added bonus that the experience is infinitely nicer than entering a normal supermarket. Planet Organic in London claims to be “the UK’s largest fully certified organic supermarket”.

Clubbing together with a few people to bulk buy from a wholesaler is a good solution for many. Here is a list of the larger wholesale suppliers:

Essential Trading – Bristol  http://www.essential-trading.coop/ Delivers throughout most of the Southern half of England and Wales

Greencity - www.greencity.coop Glasgow (0141 554 7633) Minimum order £350 (delivery free). Delivers in and around Scotland.

Highland Wholefoods - http://www.highlandwholefoods.co.uk/  Inverness (01463 712393) Minimum order £100; £250 to benefit from discounts. Delivers to Highland

Infinity Foods - Brighton (01273 424060) Infinity sends goods to customers all over the UK and have a growing export market. You can visit their website at http://www.infinityfoodswholesale.co.uk ( there is a page with a clickable map and postcode delivery rates for the UK) or e-mail enquiries to info@infinityfoodswholesale.co.uk

Lembas http://www.lembas.co.uk/   - Sheffield (0845 458 1585) Minimum order £100+  for non-trade depending on distance from base (delivery free). Lembas regularly deliveries within a radius of about 90 miles of Sheffield.

Rainbow Wholefoods http://www.rainbowwholefoods.co.uk/ – Norwich (01603 630484) Minimum order is £200 for delivery and £50 for collection. Delivers across East Anglia and beyond.

Suma co-operative http://www.suma.coop/ - Halifax (01422 313861) The largest vegetarian foods and eco-products wholesaler in the country. Delivers to whole of the UK. Minimum order £250+ depending on region.

This list was taken from the Sustain website.

The companies offering veg boxes, either for doorstep delivery or local collection, vary widely. Market leaders, such as Abel and Cole and Riverford Organics, provide fresh produce, whereas social enterprises, such as Growing Communities in London and Veg Box People in Manchester, also provide a social good, helping to make local food production not only viable but vibrant.

The Soil Association’s website has a “find an organic veg box” tool. Your local wholefood shop may also be able to point you in the right direction. Read our feature on Veg Box People

Farmers’ markets exist across the UK linking customers with local producers and providing thousands of farmers with a real lifeline. For a directory of markets, shops and farms where you can pick your own, see www.farma.org.uk. A directory of country markets is also available.

Food Assemblies provide an online market for food producers to sell to local people. Hosts organise a weekly online shop and a local pick-up market. There is no middleman: Members pay producers directly. The Food Assembly website claims this allows them to earn over 80% for their produce in comparison to 15-25% through supermarkets. The Food Assembly and the Hosts charge a service fee. There are a few Food Assemblies across the UK supported by the London Assembly. 

OFN UK was launched in 2016 and is a co-operative of producers and food enterprises which is growing quickly. Producers grow, make, bake, rear, butcher and ferment while Food Hubs sell the produce of a range of producers. Producers and Hubs can set up profiles on the Network, which can be upgraded to online shops selling directly to customers. 

According to OFN international’s website:

Food systems we love need collaboration, trust and logistics. They need software that empowers us. We’re non-profit, and we’re open source. We’re ready to partner the food movement in your part of the world.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is “a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared … It is one of the most radical ways that we can re-take control and ownership of our food system.” 

There are different ways that consumers, or CSA members, can be involved in the production of their food, which may be through ownership or investment in a farm or through providing labour. Find a CSA near you. 

Company behind the brand

Tesco Plc is the UK’s largest retailer with close to 30% share of the grocery market and the 9th largest retailer in terms of revenue in the world.

In January 2016, the Groceries Code Adjudicator found that Tesco had seriously “breached the legally binding code governing the grocery market” after the supermarket had delayed payments worth millions of pounds to suppliers.

At the end of a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for overstating its profits, it agreed to pay a fine of £129 million to avoid prosecution in March 2017.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

This information is reserved for subscribers only. Don't miss out, become a subscriber today.

Start your 30 day trial today!

Ethics made easy - comprehensive, simple to use, transparent and reliable ethical rankings. Subscribe today for a wealth of data at your fingertips.

We will take payment when you order, but you can cancel by phone or email within 30 days for a full no-questions-asked refund!

Start your 30 day trial today!