Nyawira Njiraini tending coffee plants

Co-op commits international aid investment and launches climate change commitments for Fairtrade producers 

Co-op has announced a commitment to continue to spend more than 0.7%* of its pre-tax profit to international aid and has joined forces with Fairtrade Africa and Fairtrade Foundation to support producers combating the effects of climate change.

The convenience retailer makes the announcement as it launches its latest report – Climate Justice for People and Planet – which calls for increased business accountability to protect and invest in the resilience and transition of global supply chains in the face of the climate crisis.

Co-op’s expansion of its partnership with Fairtrade Africa will ensure producers in its supply chain, that are already seeing the first-hand impact of climate change, are supported now and into the future.    

The announcement follows the news of the Government’s decision to not return to its world-leading commitment of 0.7% of Gross National Income – currently reduced to 0.5%, which is a cut of almost £4bn – for international aid and development. Co-op lobbied 650 MPs urging them to vote against the Government’s motion by sharing its new report to show how the reduced funding will impact international communities.

Co-op’s report states that it’s vital that collective progress is made during discussion at COP-26 on the $100bn commitment to investment in climate resilience and adaptation. In 2009, during the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, the world’s richest countries – including the UK – agreed to spend $100bn a year on climate change finance by 2020. Despite some progress, and this target being a key goal of The Paris Agreement, the target is not being met.   

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO, said: ‘As we have seen throughout the pandemic, we are reliant on the global food system for the food we enjoy here in the UK. However, the reality is that for many of our suppliers the climate crisis is as immediate and pressing as the impact of Covid-19.  It’s crucial that we ensure producers in low income countries receive adequate support to cover the cost of adapting to climate change and transitioning to low carbon production.’

Co-op’s new long-term commitment and investment with Fairtrade Africa will help to drive forward Fairtrade’s climate strategy and generate further action on the ground, benefitting producers at the front line of the climate crisis. The new approach will drive a deeper impact with communities by pooling Co-op’s current investment from individual projects into a strategic programme directed by producers themselves.   

Chris Oluoch, Programmes Director, Fairtrade Africa, said: ‘Co-op is standing side by side with Fairtrade producers, ensuring a farmer-centric approach to adapting and mitigating the very worst effects of climate change and channelling crucial funding to the areas of greatest need in a flexible and responsive manner.’ 

This new commitment forms part of Co-op’s 10-point climate change action plan which it unveiled in May 2021. The plan sets out blueprint for Co-op to achieve net zero for its direct and indirect carbon emissions by 2040, with one of the action points to help suppliers on the front line of the climate crisis.   

Whitfield continues: ’Globally, 2020 was the joint hottest year on record, and 2011-2020 was the hottest decade recorded. As a consequence of climate change, it is expected that the total area of land suitable for coffee growing will have halved by 2050, which will be devastating for communities that rely on coffee for their livelihoods. 

‘We are disappointed in the Government’s decision not to return to its 0.7% commitment. However, it’s not just Government who has a part to play in investing in climate resilience and adaptation, businesses like ours do too. That is why will continue spending in excess of 0.7% of pre-tax profit to international investment and encourage other retailers to follow given their international supply chains. We must work for a just transition, as we recognise that climate change is a human issue as much as it is an environmental one.’

‘Our partnership with Fairtrade Africa will see long term investment to support producers to adapt and mitigate climate change and ensure their livelihoods for the future, all of which is made possible thanks to Co-op members and customers.’

In 2020, Co-op invested £3.3m in overseas projects such as water, hygiene and sanitation support in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities through its partnerships with The One Foundation and Water Unite; conservation and reforestation projects in Borneo in partnership with Chester Zoo; and provision of food parcels and PPE to 2,000 Fairtrade farmers and workers who produce cocoa in Peru, in partnership with its supplier ICAM Chocolate UK.   

  - Ends -  

Notes to editors

 *Co-op’s international investment – investing above and beyond 0.7% of pre-tax profits into international development .

     2017   2018   2019   2020   Average   
Pre-tax profit   £72,000,000    £93,000,000    £67,000,000    £127,000,000   £89,750,000   
International community investment*  £2,070,000    £2,860,000    £2,980,000    £2,820,000    2,682,500   
Fairtrade & Sustainable Sourcing projects   £34,000    £90,000    £290,400    £522,421    £234,205   
Sum of international investment   £2,104,000    £2,950,000    £3,270,400    £3,342,421   £2,916,705   
International investment as a % pre-tax profit    2.9%   3.2%   4.9%   2.6%   3.4%   

 *International community investment includes The One Foundation, Water Unite and Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal investment and carbon offset projects from our insurance and funeral businesses. For further detail read the 2020 Co-op report.

Read Co-op’s 2021 report Climate Justice for People and Planet 

View Co-op’s 10-point climate plan  

Find out more about Co-op’s work with Fairtrade

Co-op is committed to being the UK’s largest supporter of Fairtrade. For over 25 years, driven by its passionate members, Co-op has been proud to support Fairtrade and the difference a fair price, premium and empowerment makes for the lives of farmers across the world. Co-op is the world’s largest convenience retailer of Fairtrade products. Co-op’s commitment to Fairtrade across seven core categories is industry leading – 100% of its own-brand tea, coffee, bananas, cocoa, bagged sugar and African roses are Fairtrade – it is also the biggest retailer of Fairtrade wine in the world. Co-op is committed to building on its Fairtrade leadership and strengthening producer communities around the world, as set out in its Future of Food ambition.    

Third-party endorsement quotes   

Chris Oluoch, Programmes Director, Fairtrade Africa:   

‘Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing farmers and workers in global supply chains, and has the potential of deepening the vulnerability and poverty context of thousands of farmers and workers in sub-Saharan Africa. Addressing the climate crisis is therefore a key pillar of Fairtrade Africa’s strategy, where we will continue to support our producers in building resilience to climate shocks, price shocks, crop diseases, food insecurity and natural disasters, as well as creating an enabling environment for action and change.    

‘Through their generous donation and annual commitment to fund our climate strategy, the Co-op is standing side by side with Fairtrade producers, ensuring a farmer-centric approach to adapting and mitigating the very worst effects of climate change and channelling crucial funding to the areas of greatest need in a flexible and responsive manner. We hope that Co-op’s investment will inspire action and support from other actors in the food supply chain to invest in producers on the ground to adapt to climate challenges, supporting the long-term resilience of key supply chains and the communities who depend on them.’ 

 John Steel, CEO Café Direct:   

‘In 2021 it is increasingly clear that climate change will only be addressed by directly engaging, supporting and empowering the communities most impacted by climate change – smallholder farmers adjacent to the world’s rainforests. Business (and indeed all actors in business, government and society) need to prioritise these communities. Paying a fair price, re-investing in these communities and working hand-in-hand as joint leaders in the fight against climate injustice is a pre-requisite. Government is required to play its part by reinstating the 0.7% gross national income to official development assistance.’  

 Duncan Goose, Founder, The One Foundation:   

‘In a year which has seen unprecedented spending on Covid and shoring up the economy, it is clear that when a crisis has to be resolved, the UK Government rises to the challenge.  Whilst balancing budgets requires hard choices, the fact remains that we face the biggest crisis the planet has ever had to address, and now is the time not for talk, but for demonstrable action. Committing £100bn to international climate finance can’t be shied away from, in the same way Covid could not be either.   

‘Having witnessed first-hand the extremes of droughts in the Sahel, or floods in Malawi, we recognise the strain the climate crisis puts upon communities in the global south which are inextricably linked to our own well-being and food supply chain. Governments and businesses must be held accountable for the safety and security of our food producers and thus, now is not the time to falter, but to face into the challenge of the crisis before us and set an example to all governments and businesses not only by restoring 0.7% of GNI for ODA, but also the £100bn commitment on climate finance too.’