In March 2021 Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for information on the company's GMO policy.

Its Sustainability Sugar Cane, Prawn, Floral and Tea Standards included the criteria, 'No GMO are to be used in line with the Sainsbury's GMO Policy'. However, the supermarket's GMO policy itself could not be found. Sainsbury's groceries website was found to sell KTC Vegetable Oil, which was produced from genetically modified soya.

Ethical Consumer noted that the company sold meat and dairy not labelled organic, therefore it was likely to be from animals fed a genetically modified diet. In June 2017 the British government website www.food.gov.uk stated that the EU animal feed industry imported 70% of its maize, soya and rapeseed requirements; that "almost all" of the soya from the major producers Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the USA was genetically modified and that "much of" the maize imported from the USA was genetically modified.

Although the company appeared to ban GMO crops for its own-brand products, no policy could be found excluding the use of GMO animal feed. As it also sold products known to contain GMO soya, it lost half a mark in the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)

In March 2021 Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for information on the company's cotton sourcing policy. A number of cotton products on sale were not certified organic or Fairtrade. Sainsbury's was said to be a member of the Better Cotton Initiative.

The Sainsbury's 2019/20 Values Update stated, "76% of our cotton is sourced more sustainably through the Better Cotton Initiative, up from 68% in 2018/19 (2020 target: 100 per cent". No information was found as to whether the company had met this 100% target.

According to the Responsible Sourcing Network website, J Sainsbury plc had committed to not sourcing from Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.

Not all of Sainsbury's cotton appeared to be certified. It lost marks under the following categories: Workers Rights, Pollution & Toxics and Controversial Technology.

According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in August 2018, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton. As it had signed up to the Responsible Sourcing Network cotton pledge it was not marked down for Workers' Rights.

The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company also lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. Though the company had stated for example on Twitter that its own band products were not genetically modified, no official policy statement was identified on the company website, including related to cotton. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Reference:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

In December 2017 Ethical Consumer viewed the British Bankers' Association (BBA) website, www.bba.org.uk, for its membership list. Sainsbury's Bank plc was listed as a member. The BBA was a trade association for the UK banking and financial services sector and was considered by Ethical Consumer to have lobbied against effective banking regulation in the UK and the EU. In particular it had been opposed to an effective retail and investment banking split, which campaigners argued was essential to protect the economy from further banking collapses.

As of August 2018 this story has been marked as Information Only as the BBA had been merged into a new organsation called UK Finance, and their policies were less clear.

Reference:

Member List (2017)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Financial Statements 2020 for J Sainsbury plc.

This indicated that two directors were paid over £1million in the year 2019/20, a total pay which Ethical Consumer deemed excessive. These were:
Mike Coupe - £3,117,000
Kevin O’Byrne - £1,802,000

The company lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Financial Statements 2020 J Sainsbury plc (26 February 2021)

No information on investment, engagement or shareholder voting policies could be found for Sainsbury's Bank when Ethical Consumer searched their website and documents in October 2019.

Reference:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (15 August 2018)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed J Sainsbury plc's list of subsidiaries in its Annual Report and Financial Statements 2020.

This showed that the company had several subsidiaries in jurisdictions considered by Ethical Consumer to be tax havens at the time of writing. Of these, at least two were considered high risk company types for likely use of tax avoidance:

JS Insurance Limited in Isle of Man
Sainsbury's Argos Asia Limited in Hong Kong (holding company)

An internet search using the search terms “Sainsbury's tax policy statement country” found no country-by-country financial information or reporting (CBCR), nor clear public tax statement confirming that it was this company’s policy not to engage in tax avoidance activity or to use tax havens for tax avoidance purposes, nor did the company provide a narrative explanation for what each group entity located in a tax haven is for, and how it is not being used for purposes of tax minimisation.

Given that J Sainsbury plc had two or more high risk subsidiaries in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer's tax haven list and no country-by-country financial information, nor adequate policy statement and narrative explanation, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies and lost a full mark under Tax Conduct.

Reference:

Financial Statements 2020 J Sainsbury plc (26 February 2021)