What Supermarket you choose to shop at will ultimately effect the types of products that are on offer for you to buy and have some impact on the types of ethical decisions you make whilst deciding what foods to purchase.
Chains such as Waitrose, The Co-Operative and Marks and Spencers have ethical credentials engrained within their brand, and use these to appeal to customers. This means that a lot of their own brand goods will have been sourced locally, are fair trade, organic or free range etc.
The Supermarket Waitrose takes the issue of corporate social responsibility very seriously and would be a perfect choice for people who are looking to choose an ethically aware supermarket to do their weakly shopping. They Produce reports annually detailing how they are to reducing their environmental impacts, how they work with suppliers and local communities and how they deal with issues of responsible sourcing and wate management. Last year, Waitrose came joint first with Marks and Spencers Food in a survey carried out by the Marine Conservation Society for their contribution to sustainable fishing. Waitrose are also pioneers in bringing organic food choices to the wider market and stock over 1700 lines of organic products which are when feasible mainly from within the UK. They also invest heavily in research and development within organic farming practices and sponsor the “Organic Excellence Awards”.
Marks and Spencers food regard animal welfare in farming very highly and have been market leaders in implementing lower stocking densities for chicken and only using free range eggs in all their food products. Sales of their organic ranges have increased by 48% with a push for more sustainable farming methods being implemented amongst their suppliers. With regards to Marks and Spencers ethical credentials as a company, they are involved in many charity and community fundrasing projects and take the sourcing of their products very seriously, and have developed a set of Global Sourcing Principles in partneship with their suppliers to ensure that standards regarding working conditions, rates of pay and health and safety regulations etc are met by all their suppliers.
The Co-Operactive have been at the forefront of responsible retailling issues for the last 15 years, and these ideas stem from their companies ethical concerns and the way the business is conducted. They were the first supermarket to launch a Fairtrade certified own-brand product and have stated that they aim to ‘mainstream’ Fairtrade products in order for them to reach the wider market.
Behind these three Supermarket Chains come companies such as Sainsburys and Morrisons, these two have implemented some good policies and are making significant progress in fields such as animal welfare, fair trade goods and local sourcing. For example, Sainsburys has the highest proportion of recyclable packaging of any of the supermarkets and Morrisons was rated the highest on sustainable wood use, with 100% of its tissue and furniture sourced from FSC sources.
Asda and Tesco have made progress in some areas, however due to their massive size, huge corporate buying power and the fact they have to appeal to buyers on all budgets, are not the best choice for championing ethical products or sustainble ways of doing business.
Finally we come to the discount Supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, who, given the rediculously low prices of some of their products would be unable to maintain a high standard of ethical policies and behaviours. Some of them are taking small steps, however the campaigns are mainly in their parent countries of Germany and Holland and we hear little about them in the UK.