In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the Co-operative Group's completed questionnaire, completed in December 2019. Regarding an animal testing policy it stated:

• All Co-op branded cosmetics and household products, including cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products, are approved under the Leaping Bunny Programme.
• Co-op branded household products have carried Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny label since 2004, when we became the first major UK grocer to gain the certification across all cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products.

To make sure we stay true to our word, Cruelty Free International regularly checks our products against their independently verifiable Humane Cosmetics and Humane Household Product certifications, operating to strict cut-off dates.

However, due to the fact that the company sold non own brand cosmetics and household products, and it did not appear to have a policy prohibiting the sale of other brands which may contain ingredients tested on animals, it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Animal Testing and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

Questionnaire response December 2019 (20 January 2020)

In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the Co-operative's most up to date Animal Welfare policy, published on its Co-operative Food website. The 54 page document had lots of details about the welfare of the animals it sources.

The policy stated that all eggs sold by the Co-op were free-range or organic, and all meat, poultry and dairy was Red Tractor certified. All pork was outdoor bred. "All of our fresh own-brand beef is British." In 2019, 79% of Co-op wild capture seafood products were Marine Stewardship Council certified.

The company did not state that all meat and dairy products had to be free-range or organic and it was therefore assumed to sell non free-range and non-organic products.

The company therefore lost a mark under both Animal Rights and Factory Farming.

Reference:

Animal Welfare Policy (27 April 2018)

In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the Co-operative Group’s most recent questionnaire response, completed in December 2019, which stated:

"Risk assessment is based on extensive research and those pesticides deemed to be high risk are not allowed (based on their potential risk to consumers, operators and the environment – including pollinators such as bees). We also deploy management plans for lower-risk pesticides – for example, to ensure that the application of a pesticide does not harm beneficial insects. These plans can involve precautions around how and when the pesticides are applied and stored.
We were the first UK retailer to prohibit the use of a group of eight pesticides as part of a radical new ten-point plan designed to help reverse the worrying decline in the British honeybee population.
No Co-op own-brand products contain Neonics or sulfoxaflor. Our honey is a blend of EU and non-EU honeys but none of it is certified organic."

However, no information was found on how bees in the company's honey supply chains were actually managed. For example, no information was provided on practices relating to wing clipping, artificial insemination, swarm control, use of pesticides and drugs in treating pests and diseases or the killing of drones, colonies or brood to ensure maximum honey yield. Ethical Consumer felt it necessary for companies selling own brand honey to have a policy ensuring some of these practices were not happening in their supply chain. The company therefore lost a mark under the Animal Rights category.

Reference:

Co-op Way Report 2017 (26 April 2018)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the 2019 'Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare' (BBFAW) report.

BBFAW was supported by Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection and Coller Capital, and aimed to "drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the world’s leading food businesses" by providing "an annual, objective, independent assessment of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment, performance and disclosure in food companies."

The Benchmark assessed company approaches to farm animal welfare on the basis of their published information in four core areas: Management Commitment and Policy; Governance and Management; Leadership and Innovation; Performance Reporting and Impact.

In total, 150 companies were assessed according to their published information and ranked from Tier 1 (indicating companies that have taken a leadership position), down to Tier 6 (farm animal welfare does not appear to be recognised as a business issue).

Co-op Food was ranked as 'Tier 2: Integral to business strategy'

Tiers 1 and 2 in the Benchmark indicated companies that were considered to have farm animal welfare as an integral part of their business strategy.

Ethical Consumer felt that companies rated Tier 3 and below needed to demonstrate more progess before being considered 'leaders' in regard to animal welfare policies and practice. Tier 3-6 companies therefore lost half a mark under the Animal Rights category. Given that Coop was rated Tier 2, it did not lose any marks and this story is for information only.

Reference:

BBFAW 2019 (28 July 2020)