You may have seen the recent news coverage of the announcement that Sainsbury's has decided to end Fairtrade Mark certification of its Red Label and Gold Label tea in favour of their new Sainsbury's Foundation approach. In response to this, our Director, Martin Rhodes wrote a letter to Mike Coupe, the Chief Executive of Sainsbury's, on the 25th May 2017. You can read Martin's letter below. Sainsbury's responded to Martin's letter on 31st May - you can read their response here and Martin's further correspondence following their reply can also be viewed here.
Dear Mr Coupe,
I am writing on behalf of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum to express concern that Sainsbury's has decided to end Fairtrade Mark certification of its Red Label and Gold Label tea. I write to ask you to reconsider the removal of Fairtrade Mark certification from any Sainsbury's products.
As the national network organisation in Scotland promoting Fair Trade, we work with and support the grassroots network of Fair Trade campaigners across Scotland. We are already aware of concern, disappointment and upset among Fair Trade campaigners in Scotland who have previously welcomed Sainsbury's commitment to Fairtrade Mark certification for key products that you stock.
As a network organisation, we are not solely committed to promoting Fairtrade Mark certification. We are also a network member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and we support fairly traded initiatives that adhere to the principles set out in 'A Charter of Fair Trade Principles'. We recognise that Fairtrade Mark certification has been central to the growth of Fair Trade in Scotland and the UK as a whole. The commitment to products with the Fairtrade Mark of key retailers such as Sainsbury's has been central to the growth in volume of sales in this sector.
We are aware of several strong relationships between local Fair Trade groups in Scotland and their local Sainsbury's shop. Many Fair Trade campaigners and supporters choose to shop in Sainsbury's because of your commitment to Fair Trade through Fairtrade Mark certification. We believe that those relationships between ethical consumers and Sainsbury's is undermined by your announcement this week.
We are particularly concerned that in your proposed Sainsbury's Foundation approach, we see no evidence that producers will decide themselves where to invest any premium. The empowerment of producers through 'capacity building and empowerment' is essential to Fair Trade and we do not believe that this is embedded into your new Sainsbury's Foundation model. We are aware that producers have spoken out in opposition to your plans and that they have voiced concerns at having Fairtrade Premium payments taken out of their control. Our understanding is that decisions over the payment of 'premiums' will be made by a Board of the Sainsbury's Foundation in the UK and not by the farmers and workers. It looks very much like a grants scheme to which farmers have to apply and meet criteria set and assessed by a Board in the UK. We do not believe that this builds capacity or empowers farmers and workers. Indeed, we see such an approach as taking power away from farmers and workers who currently have the ability through Fairtrade certification to make decisions about the use of any premium.
We are not opposed to innovation in Fair Trade and as previously stated we are not committed to any single certification system. However, we are committed to supporting actions that uphold the integrity of the principles of Fair Trade.
We hope that you will review and reconsider your decision about your own label tea and will not move to rolling out your model to other products. We urge you to continue discussions with the producer representatives and the Fairtrade Foundation to find a solution that meets the principles of Fair Trade.