Suppliers of Fairtrade bananas to Sainsbury’s could be affected by a recent move away from the certification to a new in-house ‘Fairly Traded’ tea label, the Fairtrade Foundation has said.
The organisation said it was unable to partner with Sainsbury’s on its new sustainable tea sourcing pilot, as it does “not meet core principles of empowerment”.
Sainsbury’s recently unveiled new sustainability standards, as well as the tea pilot, which it said will offer a guaranteed minimum price and social premium to its tea producers under a new ‘Fairly Traded’ range.
Under the new pilot, Sainsbury’s own-brand Red Label and Gold Label tea will no longer be Fairtrade certified, with more than 229,000 farmers set to be affected by the changes, Fairtrade said.
While the new pilot focuses on tea, Fairtrade said it is “watching the situation closely” as Sainsbury’s is by far the biggest retailer of Fairtrade bananas, and thousands more small producers will be affected if it makes similar moves on other commodities.
In an open letter to the Sainsbury’s, tea producers from the southern Africa networks of Fairtrade Africa wrote: “We told Sainsbury’s loud and clear: your model will bring about disempowerment. We are extremely concerned about the power and control that Sainsbury’s seeks to exert over us. We see the proposed approach as an attempt to replace the autonomous role which Fairtrade brings and replace it with a model which no longer balances the power between producers and buyers.”
Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Fairtrade and Sainsbury’s have worked together for many years and we are rightfully proud of what we have achieved for some of the world’s most marginalised farmers.
“While we welcome and expect companies to work towards improving social, economic and environmental outcomes within their supply chains, we don’t believe the execution of this current model will, on balance, deliver positive changes for tea farmers. Therefore, at this stage we are unable to partner with the Sainsbury’s Foundation as it does not yet meet our core priniciples, particularly in the area of producer empowerment.”
Sainsbury’s has maintained its commitment to other Fairtrade tea brands, as well as Fairtrade bananas, chocolate, coffee and flowers.