Responding to Asda and Tesco

We know that many of you are now receiving responses from Asda and Tesco to your emails asking them to turn their bananas 100% Fairtrade. 

They raise some important and positive points but still fall a long way short of a commitment to follow Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative and Waitrose in selling only Fairtrade bananas with all the independently verified protection and support this would bring poor banana farmers and workers.

This is becoming even more important as the UK’s supermarket price wars continue to intensify.

Together we need to continue building the pressure – you can do this in two ways:

  • Share the campaign and get even more people asking their local Asda and Tesco stores to switch to Fairtrade banana
  • Build the conversation by replying to them and asking why they are still not switching

Here are some suggestions to help respond to their replies:

Asda said:

  • We want to give customers the choice to pay the Fairtrade brand premium or not

The Fairtrade Foundation believes the standards Fairtrade certifies, designed to protect and support poor farmers and workers, should be the very minimum expected from everyone selling bananas in the UK, not an added extra or luxury premium. We think shoppers feel the same, in fact eight out of 10 consumers say that they’d pay more for bananas if they knew the extra was going to the farmers and workers. And Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and The Co-operative, who offer only 100% Fairtrade bananas, don’t charge a price premium for Fairtrade.

  • We work to ensure all we sell is fairly traded whether this is part of the Fairtrade Marketing group or not

It’s good that supermarkets are feeling the need to use this sort of language and shows the power of Fairtrade campaigning.

However, the important thing about Fairtrade is that it independently verifies that products carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark meet a set of rigorous, internationally agreed and publicly available standards.

Also while the Fairtrade Foundation does ‘market’ and campaign for Fairtrade, it does this to achieve its single goal – to help poor farmers and workers get a fair deal. It is a not-for-profit organisation and a registered charity. Internationally the whole Fairtrade system is overseen by a Board where farmer and worker organisations have 50% of the seats and ensure everything the system does is in the interests of those it exists to help.

Tesco said:

  • We’ll pay the equivalent of the Fairtrade Minimum Price for all our bananas

The Fairtrade Minimum Price for bananas is set every year by Fairtrade International in a global consultation involving everyone from poor farmers to big multinationals. It is designed as a safety net when banana prices are very low. It is the minimum a producer should receive and aims to cover the cost of sustainable production based on where they live. This is something only Fairtrade offers and is vital when years of supermarket price wars have squeezed supply chains so hard.

It also shows what Fairtrade campaigning has achieved when even the very biggest retailers now feel they must commit to paying an equivalent amount as a minimum, whether they are certified or not.

However, the other vital thing about the Fairtrade Minimum Price is that the Fairtrade system independently verifies producers are actually receiving this minimum, both now and in the future. Only bananas with the FAIRTRADE MARK carry this guarantee.

We know farmers, workers and consumers all highly value this independence with two thirds of UK consumers wanting retailers to take steps to prove their claims.

It’s important to be clear that Fairtrade bananas also always guarantee a further payment on top of the Minimum Price called the Fairtrade Premium. This is to spend on social projects such as housing, education, health clinics or improving farms. This is always paid, is something producers can always rely on and which farmers and workers decide democratically how to spend.

In fact the Premium means that producers always receive around 10% extra on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price. In Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador, all major suppliers of the UK, the Premium can mean as much as 14 - 16% extra. Paying the equivalent of Fairtrade Minimum Price does not deliver this guaranteed additional amount.

Alongside guaranteed financial benefits Fairtrade also assures decent working conditions, workers’ rights, health and safety and environmental standards and much more.

  • We’re committed to a Living Wage by 2017

Of all the statements this is perhaps the most positive and one that could bring real benefit to workers. In an industry in which the not-for-profit co-operative Banana Link says many banana workers earn as little as £5 a day and often less, this is very important.

Fairtrade is also leading work across the industry to make sure this happens.

Fairtrade already requires that plantation owners must pay the national minimum wage, regional average wages or wages as set by collective bargaining agreement, whichever is highest. Importantly it also requires them to move to a Living Wage over time, as well as providing written contracts, pay slips, paid overtime, sick and holiday pay and maternity leave, among other things.

In fact in Colombia, which supplies around 20% of all UK bananas, a recent survey of workers on Fairtrade plantations showed that 100% of workers interviewed said their quality of life had improved under Fairtrade.

By 2015 the Fairtrade system will also have set benchmarks for living wages for all banana exporting countries, with these already existing for bananas from the Dominican Republic which also supplies around 20% of UK bananas. If supermarkets are 100% Fairtrade, then all their banana supply chains will also move to Living Wage in step and this will be fully verified

  • We recognise customers value external certification

We absolutely agree that consumers really value the independent verification that certifiers like Fairtrade offer, as a way of demonstrating sourcing values. And when it comes to protecting farmers from the price wars, Fairtrade is also the only independent certifier guaranteeing the safety net of a minimum price designed to cover the cost of sustainable production and an assured extra social premium on top, as well as much, much more. We very much welcome a proactive discussion with all retailers on the future role Fairtrade has to play.

Both Asda and Tesco said:

  • We’ll continue to work as part of the World Banana Forum

Issues such as Living Wage are challenges that everyone in the industry including Fairtrade, the supermarkets and suppliers need to work together to help achieve. The World Banana Forum is a body that brings together supermarkets and suppliers as well as Fairtrade and other organisations to help make this happen. It has a vital role to play, but its role is not to offer independent verification of the standards of those who are members.