Decision Maker Response

Sainsbury’s response

Jul 24, 2017 — Thank you for contacting us about our Fairly Traded pilot on tea and the very important issue of how best to support our farmers, growers and their communities across the world.

Firstly, you may be surprised to hear that I’m pleased so many of you have signed this petition. It shows the strength of feeling that exists for businesses to source ethically and sustainably. I also welcome the opportunity to respond and set the record straight.

At Sainsbury’s ethical and sustainable sourcing has always been, and remains, at the heart of our business. We believe we have a responsibility to our farmers, their families and communities to provide them with the very best long-term support to build strong and resilient businesses and continuously improve their quality of life.

And we don’t just say this. We act on it – day in, day out, by always listening to our farmers to understand their views and concerns and by always seeking to stay ahead of issues and develop new approaches where we believe they will create positive impact.

Major concerns for our farmers today include the increasing impact of climate change on their crops, intensifying global competition, geo-political uncertainty and being disconnected from the end market for their crops. These are severely affecting their businesses and communities and put their quality of life at risk.

In response to these escalating concerns we announced a new pilot project in May, called Fairly Traded, a trial which involves working closely with our tea farmers and their communities in East Africa to see if we can together better address these issues with a new approach – an approach that remains based on the 10 principles of Fair Trade but builds on existing models.

The pilot approach will deliver the same or more financial benefits as those offered under the Fairtrade model, including an absolute guarantee of the minimum price and matched level of social premium for farmers to invest in their businesses and communities – but crucially, it also provides new benefits, such as long-term commitments of up to 3 years as well as access to enhanced data, information and expert support on the ground – tailored to their individual needs.

If you would like to know more about how Fairly Traded works just visit http://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/discover-more/fairly-traded

But also please allow me to directly address the questions and concerns raised by this petition:

• Firstly, we’re not making any more money because of this change. The pilot will be cost neutral and, if anything, will cost Sainsbury’s more to operate. Our customers will also see no change in the price of tea. However our farmers, their families and communities will see significant extra benefits and support. And that’s what truly matters.

• All of our farmers involved in the pilot are wholly supportive. They can see the potential benefits of the combination of increased funding and additional support that our scheme will provide. If you see criticism of the pilot from farmers, I can assure they are not farmers who supply Sainsbury’s and as such are not farmers involved in the pilot scheme.

• It’s also really important to state that we’re guaranteeing our farmers exactly the same level of funding as the existing scheme, and we expect to increase this funding further. The way the application process has been described is also misleading. As you would expect the scheme has safeguards in place to ensure that this funding is received by those it is intended for, but it is absolutely our farmers’ money for them to invest in their businesses and communities. No funding is being removed – if anything it will increase.

• We’ve also had some questions about the Standards we are working to. These have been co-authored by leading Standards agency, SAI Global, and peer-reviewed by 50 independent experts. Our Standards will be independently audited by NSF International to the highest levels and we will publish the results annually. This goes beyond the requirements of the existing Fairtrade model.

• We have been discussing this pilot with the Fairtrade Foundation for over two years and have always sought to collaborate on the development programme. Our door remains open to our long-standing partner to further discuss working together on the pilot for the best interests of our farmers, their families and communities. We remain the world’s biggest retailer of Fairtrade products.

• Farmers in the developing world are facing unprecedented challenges. More of the same just isn’t enough anymore. As our ambition is to go above and beyond what farmers, their families and communities currently receive, isn’t it a positive step to try something new? Our pilot is exactly that, a pilot, and testing a new approach cannot be a bad thing. The work we’re doing is based on 10 plus years of experience with our Farm Development Groups in the UK and through our Fair Development Fund work with Comic Relief. I would urge you to wait to see what results we can deliver before making judgments.

• One final point, we do not pretend to have all the answers to the complex issues that our farmers and growers are facing. But we do have their full support to launch this trial and test what can be done to provide an even better future for some of the world’s poorest communities.

I think it must be recognised that the easy choice by far in these resource constrained times would be for Sainsbury’s to maintain the status quo. But, put simply, we don’t see more of the same as an option in the face of the escalating challenges facing our farmers and their communities. That’s why we’ve launched our Fairly Traded tea pilot, and that’s why we ask to be judged on our results.

Best wishes,

Mike Coupe
Group Chief Executive
Sainsbury's PLC