Church of Scotland concern over supermarket Fairtrade plans

By agency reporter
July 4, 2017

The Church of Scotland has expressed concern that two major UK supermarket chains are reported to be considering changing the way they label Fairtrade produce.

The World Mission Council and the Church and Society Council said any move away from using the long established Fairtrade mark would be “bad” for food producers in developing countries, consumers and everyone who believes in fairness.

A national media report has suggested that Sainsbury’s is intending to drop the globally recognised Fairtrade mark on some produce and replace it with the phrase “fairly traded”.

It has been claimed that the supermarket is planning to set up its own in-house certification scheme, set new ethical standards and introduce a different way to pay farmers groups.

A trade magazine has reported that Tesco will move all its own-label coffee from Fairtrade to another ethical certification scheme, the Rainforest Alliance, in 2018.

The Fairtrade mark is a registered certification label for products sourced from producers in developing countries. It was established 25 years ago to secure better prices, decent working conditions and a fair deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.

The conveners of the World Mission Council and Church and Society Council, the Rev Iain Cunningham and the Rev Dr Richard Frazer, have issued a joint statement. “The Fairtrade name and logo is the gold standard in marking products sourced and produced ethically.

“Its independence, widespread recognition and work with farmers in developing countries has provided the strongest integrity for consumers who want to make a choice which sees producers get a fair deal for their work.The Church of Scotland strongly supports the Fairtrade movement, and encourages its congregations and members to use and buy Fairtrade wherever possible.

"Last month, the General Assembly agreed a plan which had a vision for Scotland to continue to be a Fairtrade nation. We are concerned at reports that some Supermarkets are seeking to replace Fairtrade products with their own in-house accreditation.

“This is bad for consumers, as they won’t know what any new brand means in terms of help for farmers. It will be bad for producers, who support the Fairtrade system and have voiced concern over the loss of the Fairtrade Premium which allows for locally led decision making over how this is used in community development.

“And it will be bad for all those who want to see a marketplace where prices paid are fair and which seeks to eliminate exploitation, as different labelling schemes will mean confusion and competition, leading to a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of cost-cutting and harming labour and social standards.”

Mr Cunningham and Dr Frazer have urged everyone who supports Fairtrade to:

  • Continue to look for the Fairtrade logo and buy Fairtrade wherever possible
  • Find out the range of products which now have Fairtrade certification
  • Write to their supermarket or grocer to urge them to continue to stock Fairtrade-accredited products
  • Write to their MP and MSPs to raise the matter at Westminster and Holyrood and ask them to continue to offer political support for the Fairtrade movement.

* More about Fairtrade certification here

* Church of Scotland


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