We were shocked when we looked into the supermarket sector in more detail. We produced a report which ranked the main 13 main supermarkets, here in the UK, according to their policies in areas such as supply chain management, workers’ rights, environmental reporting and animal rights. The results made for pretty sober reading.
Supermarkets could achieve a maximum score of 18, indicating a clear ethical practice across all categories, but the highest scorer was Co-operative with only 5.5 and Asda, at the bottom of the table, received a zero score.
Lack of control in their supply chains
A lot of the low scores were due to the lack of control that supermarkets are demonstrating in their supply chains. The sourcing of four particular ingredients is widely recognised as an area of concern: cocoa, cotton, fish and palm oil.
Only five companies have dated targets for using 100% certified cocoa, despite widespread knowledge that there are 2.1 million child labourers involved in farming uncertified beans in West Africa5. 46% of the supermarkets mention nothing about Cocoa at all, including Booths, Iceland and Ocado.
Cotton fares better, with six out of eight supermarkets that sell cotton products indicating that they don’t use Uzbekistan cotton, where forced labour is rife. However, Aldi and Morrisons still have no policy on this practice.
And it’s not all about human rights. Supermarkets are also showing disregard for sustainability in their supply chain with only 2% of Morrisons’ seafood range consisting of MSC certified products. Asda and M&S aren’t far behind with only 12% and 13% respectively. On a more positive note, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are showing real commitment in this area with 72% and 67% MSC certification across their seafood products.
Some supermarkets are making a real commitment when it comes to palm oil, with 69% of the supermarkets using 90% RSPO certified oil. Although, despite the widespread acceptance that palm oil production is linked to deforestation and climate change, Iceland, Booths, Ocado and Spar still have no policies at all.
Animal welfare and biodiversity
Bees have been making the headlines recently, and various campaigns are addressing the very real issues that agriculture faces with a declining bee population. Co-op, M&S, Sainsburys and Waitrose have all launched bee campaigns focusing on habitats and biodiversity, but no supermarket is addressing bee welfare in their own supply chains.
This continues into the animal testing area. All supermarkets sell branded products whose ingredients may have been tested on animals in non-EU locations, with 62% of supermarkets having inadequate policies to prevent animal testing taking place in their own-brand supply chains.