Fighting for Fairtrade: Complaint against Sainsbury's Upheld

In the summer of 2017, Sainsburys announced it was withdrawing from Fairtrade and setting up its own range of ‘Fairly Traded’ tea in place of Fairtrade certified tea, a decision that will impact an estimated 229,224 farmers and workers.

The Fairtrade model has been developed over the last 25 years and core to Fairtrade are the principles of producer empowerment through the control of the financial investment - the Fairtrade Premium, and independence, underpinned by fully transparent, industry endorsed, standards of certification. In contrast the Sainbury's scheme is self certified and the Fairtrade Foundation are clear it does not meet their own standards.

Sainsburys met with MPs in September 2017 to discuss this scheme and hear the concerns of MPs that in withdrawing from the scheme not only were the standards Sainsburys set not as good for producers as Fairtrade, they were also undermining the Fairtrade scheme itself. In response a group of MPs took a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority that Sainsbury's 'Fairly Traded' tea was misleading in its advertising by appearing to compare 'Fairly Traded' tea with Fairtrade certified tea. 

In March 2017 the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the MPs complaint, reflecting that Sainsbury's scheme is not to the same standard as the Fairtrade Foundation. The MPs involved- Holly Lynch, Stephen Timms, Stephen Doughty and Stella Creasy welcome this decision and call on Sainsburys to rethink their approach to Fairtrade for the benefit of those farmers and workers affected by their decision. Speaking on behalf of the group Stella Creasy said:

‘When Sainsburys came to explain to us why they were abandoning Fairtrade Tea, we warned them that it wasn’t fair to consumers who trust these ethical standards to try to sell them their own tea under a similar name so we’re pleased to see the ASA take action following our complaint.

This ruling should be a wake up call for Sainsburys that backing out of the Fairtrade movement and pretending their Fairly Traded tea is the same won’t wash- the ASA agree how Sainsburys present their products will confuse consumers. Put simply, their ‘fauxtrade’ tea is not the same thing and consumers deserve the right to know.

We hope this will encourage Sainsburys to reverse their decision to stop working with the Fairtrade Foundation and get back round a table to renegotiate- on behalf of our constituents we will certainly continue challenging them to be part of this important scheme which helps food producers around the world’

Cara Sanquest