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Contents05060809101112141718192021030404222324Analysis: buyer powerWho is paying for supermarkets to clean up their act? | Bill VorleyEfficiency or exploitation?Julian Oram on the blurred line between market dominance and abuse ofpowerAnalysis: buyer powerGood, bad and ugly, but not systematic abuse | Andrew FearneLow-carb dietKath Dalmeny on choice and climate changeAnalysis: choiceWhat does choice mean when it comes to shopping? | Kate SoperAnalysis: choiceHow does town planning affect consumer choice? | Cliff GuyFood that talks?Alan Knight ambitions for sustainable shoppingThe big question: where next for food retail?Sue Dibb | Neva Frecheville | Ella Heeks | David Hughes |Nick Monger-Godfrey | Richard Perks | Carlo Petrini | Lucy Siegle |Malcolm Veigas | James Walton | Judith WhateleyWatch what you wish for !Corinna Hawkes on marketing healthColumnsWorldviewCynthia Marin Jiménez on bringing fair trade home to MexicoCapital concernsMeg Brown on why the upsurge in organics is good for UK producersBusiness pagesCan retailers save the world?Tom Berry | Harriet Lamb | Dax Lovegrove | Fay Mansell | Andrew SimmsGreen grudgeVicki HirdRegularsFrom the editorLettersNewsReviews – readingReviews – eating | Colin TudgeUpcoming eventsFood Ethics, the magazine ofthe Food Ethics Council, seeksto challenge accepted opinionand spark fruitful debate aboutkey issues and developmentsin food and farming.Distributed quarterly tosubscribers, each issuefeatures independent news,comment and analysis.The Food Ethics Council is anindependent think tank andadvisory body that challengesgovernment, business andsociety to make wise choicesthat lead to better foodand farming. The views ofcontributors to this magazineare not necessarily thoseof the Food Ethics Councilor its members.Please do not reproducewithout permission. Articlesare copyright of the authorsand images as credited. Unlessotherwise indicated, all othercontent is copyright of theFood Ethics Council 2007.Editorial team:Tom MacMillanNeva FrechevilleDesign & printing:Maxx SolutionsBrightonSpecial thanks to:Bruce ScholtenPrinted on at least75% post-consumerrecycled paperISSN 1753-9056Food Ethics Council39 – 41 Surrey StreetBrighton BN1 3PB UKT: 0845 345 8574or +44 (0) 1273 766 654F: +44 (0) 1273 766 653info@foodethicscouncil.orgwww.foodethicscouncil.orgThe Food Ethics Councilis a registered charity(No. 1101885)Cover image: ©Tom MacMillanFrom the editorSupermarkets are lookinggreener by the day. The pastfew months have seen a spate ofenvironmental commitments fromthe likes of Tesco, Sainsbury, Marks& Spencer and Asda/Wal-Mart.Does this new green tinge signalfresh growth for the sector or is ita sign big retail has reached the endof its shelf-life?This issue of Food Ethics puts therecent pledge-fest in perspective.The big players are cleaning uptheir act, but can they do enough?Could we ever shop loyally at asupermarket chain – and be thekind of customer they need us tobe – yet also buy on fair terms forworkers and live within the planet’smeans?Big retail is about scale, powerand choice – and this is as true ofMcDonalds or Starbucks as it is ofTesco. Their global reach and highvolume creates economies of scale,particularly in distribution. Largemarket share makes each a powerfulbuyer, with an influence alongthe supply chain that leaves stateregulators in awe. And, behind themodest insistence that they servecustomer demand, they exert aprofound influence on what wewant and on what we buy.All this could be good. Supermarkets’economies of scale, poweralong the supply chain and influenceon our consumption habitscould put them in a great positionto clean up our food system and todo it fast.But there’s reason to be scepticalon each of these three counts.Their economies of scale comefrom scouring the globe and buyingin bulk, adding value from foodmiles and from sourcing out ofseason. Will doing that more efficientlycut our food’s environmentalfootprint by enough?Their power as buyers pushesthe costs of higher environmentalstandards onto suppliers andworkers. The debate rolls on overwhether supermarkets exertthis pressure fairly and legally ontheir UK suppliers. There is littlequestion, however, that the costpricesqueeze from rising, hardbargainedsupermarket standardsis eroding workers rights, in theUK and internationally. That justdoesn’t wash with a commitmentto sustainable development, whichsays we need to do better thansave the planet at the expense ofsocial justice.The ‘choice’ supermarkets offerus is also in question. The choicewhether or not to live in a way theplanet can sustain isn’t much of achoice at all, so instead supermarketsneed to help us live sustainablyby lowering the footprint ofeverything on their shelves and –you guessed it – by encouraging usto buy less. This isn’t as far-fetchedas it sounds. After all, organic boxschemes show that businesses canthrive by being trusted ‘choiceeditors’. But this may be an insurmountablechallenge to a supermarketformat that is built aroundproduct differentiation and marketsegmentation.In principle, this problem will solveitself. If the big retail businessmodel cannot be sustained, theninvestors will put their moneyelsewhere. In practice, of course,the timing is crucial. The risks andalternative opportunities for investorscould come about longafter irreparable damage has beento the planet or to people’s lives.Many things can adjust financialmarkets to the same time zone weall live in: action by investors themselves,like Tesco shareholder BenBirnberg, who wants the companyto employ independent auditorswho will check workers at its suppliers’factories and farms are guaranteeddecent working conditions,a living wage and job security; regulation,which can express concernspeople have as citizens, but cannotrationally act out in the marketplace;innovation, to find other,more sustainable retail models; andbenchmarking, so we can tell howsupermarkets are performing environmentallyand socially, as well asfinancially.All of these take imagination. Weneed to think what else the futureof food retail could look like – whatwould be the greenest, fairest andhealthiest ways of getting hold ofour food? It isn’t enough to askwhich supermarket chain is doingbest. We need to know whetherthe best is good enough.Even big retail bosses and investorsdon’t have to assume supermarketswill be part of that future. Theycould make money out other waysof doing business – direct deliveryor more specialised conveniencestores, for instance. And, like therest of us, they have a sharp incentiveto think laterally. The planet’sliabilities aren’t limited.Tom MacMillantom@foodethicscouncil.orgwww.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007


Analysis: buyer power✃ Free CopyFree CopyOpinion: Kath Dalmenysee previous page - please complete all boxesNameAddressTownPostcodeCountryEmailPhonePicture this. You supply a highly perishableand seasonal commodity to one of thesupermarkets. You are a significant playerin your sector but the supplier of onlyone of 30,000 product lines listed. Supplyprogrammes are generally agreed with thiscustomer annually, with indicative pricesand promotional plans contingent uponavailability and demand. As the seasonal peakapproaches you receive a call from the buyer.The ensuing conversation goes something likethis:(Buyer) “Hello Fred, just called to discuss ourpricing and promotional plans over the nexttwo weeks…. We want to go on promotionand discount the product by a third off theplanned price.”(You) “But we’d agreed that price, supplyis more or less as planned and we knowconsumers don’t respond to price promotionson this product at this time of the year,because demand is already at its peak.”(Buyer) “I know, but we want to go onpromotion with this product. You have tenminutes to agree or we will remove all yourproducts from our shelves within 24 hours.The clock starts now Fred, I will hold and waitfor your answer…”You call in your boss, the MD and explainwhat’s going on.(Buyer) “A minute to go Fred, what’s your answer?”Subscriptions start at £15 forfour magazines, free reports anddiscounted events.See page 4 for detailsor subscribe now atwww.foodethiscouncil.org.Snip and send us thisform if you want aAndrew FearneAndrew Fearne is Director of the Centre for Supply Chain Researchin Kent Business School at the University of Kent.a.fearne@kent.ac.ukGood, bad and ugly, but notsystematic abusefree copy.We will not pass yourdetails to any thirdparty withoutyour permission.(You) “No, we’re not going to do this.”(Buyer) “So what are you going to do with allthat product in the supply chain Fred? If yousell it on the open market you will crash theprice.”(You) “Yes we will, so everyone will get lowerpriced product, the consumer won’t buy anymore and the whole industry will suffer. And ifanyone asks us why we did it we’ll tell them.”(Buyer) “OK Fred, bye for now.”The name is fictitious but the nature of theconversation is not. Purchasing managers theworld over will recognise this as the kind ofunethical behaviour that was standard practicein the days when adversarial trading andopportunism were the norm in commoditysupply chains. Many observers believe this tobe the way supermarkets still behave today,abusing their power and forcing concessionsfrom weak suppliers who are strugglingto survive in an increasingly competitivetrading environment. But the reality is thatconversations like these and the unethicalabuse of buying power are rapidly becomingthe exception to the rule in many, if notmost, of our supermarket supply chains, assupermarkets finally wake up to the damagethat behaviour of this kind does to theirbusiness and the benefits to be gained fromdeveloping strategic relationships with keysuppliers.One of the most important conclusions fromresearch I have been involved with at KentBusiness School on justice in supermarketsupply chains, involving hundreds ofsupermarket suppliers and conversations withsupermarket employees in various functionalareas (buying, merchandising, technical,logistics), is that supermarkets are extremelyvaried in the way they treat suppliers - wemust stop talking about supermarkets as oneamorphous group. Buyers play a crucial part inthe interface between organisations but theirrole is, we believe, diminishing. Supermarketsare becoming increasingly dependent onfewer, larger, more sophisticated supplierswho take on more of the responsibility fordelivering on the promises supermarketsmake to their shoppers.During the course of our research we haveseen numerous examples of good, badand downright ugly behaviour, but we donot concur with the widely held view thatsupermarkets’ abuse of power is systemic.Indeed, we believe that many aspects ofsupermarket procurement processes andsupermarket buyer behaviour are poorlyunderstood, not least because they areextremely difficult to research. It is mucheasier to gain access to supermarketsuppliers and those who have fallen victimto rationalisation are all too willing to telltales of unethical buying behaviour. They areless keen to reveal their own shortcomings:lacking strategic vision or not investingenough in developing relationships with theirsupermarket customers; not making use ofthose relationships to become more efficientand more effective at delivering value for endconsumers.The fact is that supermarkets are a dominantforce in retail food supply chains the worldover and the behaviour of supermarket buyersin many countries leaves a lot to be desired– they’re no angels! However, the best UKsupermarkets are light years ahead of the bestin other countries in terms of how they workto develop collaborative relationships withsuppliers who are willing and able to invest inbuilding strategic relationships with them.There will be casualties as supermarketsand their supply chains evolve towards thiscollaborative model. But we shouldn’t confusethis structural adjustment, and a few cases ofunethical behaviour, with a systemic abuse ofpower designed to rip the heart out of Britishagriculture – after all, supermarkets have avested interest in building a sustainable foodand farming industry in this country. But thefact is they need help to make this happen.They should not shoulder all the blame whenit does not!Our food contributes a very significant shareof our overall greenhouse gas emissions. Thelatest conservative estimate from the FoodClimate Research Network (FCRN) is that 18percent (nearly one fifth) of all greenhousegases associated with UK consumption comefrom the food system. This includes all stagesof the food chain, from farming practices,through processing and distribution, tostorage, cooking and waste disposal.Unpacking this figure, we can say that abouteight percent of total UK greenhouse gasemissions are from farming. Looking at itanother way, about eight percent of total UKgreenhouse gas emissions are from meat anddairy. Other surprises are that greenhousegas emissions from sectors such as alcoholand sugar-sweetened drinks, and themovement of fresh produce by air-freight,are each big enough to register in percentagepoints on the UK’s overall consumptiongraph. Yet such important revelations areonly beginning to appear on food labels andin the mass media. They often tell only onepart of the story and they can be downrightmisleading.What tools do we have to reduce greenhousegas emissions from the food system? Dowe present information to the consumerand hope (or perhaps pray) that they willmake carbon-efficient choices? Do we giveindividuals and companies personal carbonbudgets to spend, assuming that they willautomatically turn down the volume ondemand? Do we rely on individual companiesauditing and reducing their carbon footprint,even though they currently lack crediblemethods for doing so? Do we simply ratchetup the cost of greenhouse-gas intensivefuels and farming inputs, hope to survivethe ensuing mess, and then emerge with amagically self-regulating, carbon-efficientfood system? And, without knowing whichwill be most effective, should we encouragethese processes to happen more rapidlythrough legislation, incentives or penalties?I’ve deliberately posed these as questions,since the answers are far from clear. Whatroute the food industry will take to help usWe need vision – not just sticky labels and a choice– to meet the challenge of climate changeLow-carb diettowards a less greenhouse gas-intensive foodsystem is itself still very much in question. Itseems that food producers and manufacturersare only just beginning to open the Pandora’sbox marked ‘greenhouse gases’ and ‘oildependence’, and are responding in verydifferent ways to what they find.Just as in the long-running debate onnutrition – around product formulation,marketing and labelling – the mantra of‘consumer choice’ still features strongly.Within the past few weeks, some earlyPandoras have announced the first tentativesteps into examining and publicisingthe carbon footprint of their products.Consumers are now told that Walkers Cheese& Onion crisps represent ‘75g of carbon’,according to the Carbon Trust’s newlylaunchedcarbon assessment methodology.Do we all suddenly feel empowered to makewell-informed snack choices? Of course not,since no-one (presumably not even Walkers)really knows what this means. Is 75g a lotor a little? Who can say? In a vacuum ofinformation, and without a ‘guideline dailyamount’ of greenhouse gases, lonely carbonlabels can’t help consumers make low-carbonchoices. Their main benefit is that carryingthe Carbon Trust logo commits a companyto identifying the greenhouse gas ‘hotspots’in their farming, production and distributionprocesses, and working to reduce the figure;just as displaying colour-coded nutritioninformation on the front of packets has givenfood companies an incentive to reformulatetheir products to avoid red warnings of ‘highfat’ or ‘high salt’.But is it enough? When it comes to food, weare all still at the stage of making baby stepsinto carbon assessment and mitigation, andwe seem to be trapped in a pattern of tryingto ‘tweak’ our inherently energy-intensivesystem by, for example, making longdistancefood transport a bit more efficient;fine-tuning our ubiquitous refrigerators; oreven (and this is no joke) providing publicfunding for research into how to make cowsfart less.All of this lacks vision of how a food systemwould need to be structured to emit 80 or90 percent less greenhouse gases than itdoes now. Reduction on this scale may wellinvolve some uncomfortable trade-offs.The first painful choices are already beingfaced, with Tesco and M&S launching airfreightlabels on fresh produce, for the firsttime making visible one facet of our oildependentfood system. Does this meanwe will pull the rug out from under foodproducers in developing countries, and thatthese supermarkets are putting the onuson customers to do so? How did it come tothe point where a rapidly-applied air-freightsticker replaces a long-term strategy to helpdeveloping-world farmers reduce their oildependence gradually, and prepare for thenew climate-concerned marketplace?Climate change challenges some of our mosttreasured hopes for an ethical food system.We may need to accept this, but we also needto decide where the buck stops. Where do wesay that some objectives, such as fair trade oranimal welfare, are non-negotiable, even if itmeans sacrificing some carbon efficiency?And where shall we seek the additionalcarbon savings to balance and defend thesenon-negotiable objectives, or to softenthe transition to a less carbon-intensivesystem? As an ethical food movement, weneed to get more carbon literate and moveswiftly past this phase of crisp-packet labelsand air-freight stickers. We need to startsetting out a vision for a truly sustainablelow-carbon food system, and the steps toachieve it.Kath Dalmeny is DeputyCoordinator of Sustain: Thealliance for better food andfarming. She has workedon low-carbon foodsystems and alternativefood distribution for theFood Climate ResearchNetwork and the LondonDevelopment Agency.kath@sustainweb.org08 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.org www.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 09


Analysis: choiceKate SoperKate Soper is a Professor in the Institute for the Study of European Transformationat London Metropolitan University, and teaches philosophy and critical theory.k.soper@londonmet.ac.ukWhat does choice mean when itcomes to shopping?Cliff GuyCliff Guy is a Professor in the School of City and Regional Planning at CardiffUniversity, specialising in research on retail development.guy@cardiff.ac.ukHow does town planningaffect consumer choice?Analysis: choiceSupermarkets claim that they provideunrivalled ‘choice’. If ‘choice’ means simplya greater profusion of discrete itemsavailable for purchase, there is some justicein the boast. But if it implies provisionfor, and capacity to make, significantdiscriminations then the equation of‘choice’ with access to a sheer plethora of‘goods’ is a whole lot shakier. Many items inthe supermarket aisles would, after all, bealmost indistinguishable if stripped of theirbrand insignia. The choice between variantsof the same article amounts, in this sense,to little more than a cosmetic distinctionfor which the choosers pay very dearlyindeed. It is we who pay for the advertisingbudgets to promote the appearance ofdifference where there is little or nonein substance. We also pay twice over forexorbitant packaging costs - nearly a sixthof average household food expendituregoes on packaging, and most of this endsup in landfill sites funded by taxpayers.Choice enjoyed atone level often obscuresor compensates forits loss at anotherYou could say this misses the point: don’tconsumers like selecting goods preciselyon the basis of ‘mere’ aesthetic distinctionsand isn’t being allowed to do so veryrelevant to their sense of ‘choice’? Well, toa point. Yet choice provided and enjoyed atone level often obscures or compensates forits loss at another. Aesthetic responses toproducts change as other choice-enhancinginformation about them becomes available.So, choosing is a complex businessinvolving both the object chosen and asupposedly freely choosing subject. If thelatter has only appearances to go on, andis ill- or under-informed about the natureof the range of options by those doing theproviding – in this case the supermarkets– then selective capacity is reduced andthe ‘choice’ arguably cannot count as fullyautonomous.I’m not suggesting that shoppers couldbe told everything about the productionand distribution of whatever they mightbuy, but there’s no doubt supermarketswithhold information that would probablyaffect what their customers bought. Howwould we shop if, for example, foods wereshelved according to the food miles theyhad travelled, or labelled with data on thecarbon emissions and pollution involvedin their production and transport; ifpackaging costs were indicated on itemsas a percentage of their price; if goodsinvolving underage or sweatshop labourwere itemised as such and shelved in aparticular area of the store; or if deceptivemarketing strategies (‘loss leaders’, ‘pesterpower’ devices and so on) were describedto customers in the terms used within theindustry? Can we pretend none of thatwould affect sales?But that’s only half the story. Supermarketsdon’t just manipulate choices within thestore – they also limit choices beyond itswalls. The expansion of the supermarkets,which now command 88 percent of the foodmarket, has severely reduced the option toshop in more locally beneficial, diversifiedand greener ways. This creates ‘ghosttowns’, with local economies trapped in avicious circle of decline. Extensive urbancar-use reduces the choice of pedestriansand cyclists to proceed in safer, quieterand less harassed ways. More local andecologically beneficial farming practicesand forms of food provision have lostout to supermarket gigantism, and smallproducers often go to the wall. And thesupermarkets aren’t just grocers any more– they’re cutting in on the local pharmacy,post office, hardware store and funeralparlour too.Viewed in a global context, to ‘choose’supermarkets is to opt for a mode ofproviding basic commodities that massivelycontributes to the climate change that will,over coming decades, have huge impacton the life-choices of millions of people.It is therefore to opt against longer termwell-being of both people and planet.Supermarkets, in short, are some of themost powerful players in a capitalistgrowth economy that lines the pockets ofthe wealthy while exercising an increasingstranglehold over the types of space weinhabit, the ways in which we spend ourtime, and the forms of enjoyment availableto us. All this in the name of a suspectnotion of consumer ‘choice’.How would we shopif goods involvingsweatshop labour wereshelved in a particulararea of the store?Since supermarkets have so far provedfairly indifferent to the negativeenvironmental and social outcomes oftheir oligopoly, it now seems far-fetchedto expect from them any form of green orethical strategy that will seriously dint theirprofits. They’ll just cherry-pick the bitsthat work for their own bottom-line, andthat ultimately isn’t enough. So it’s up tous to by-pass supermarkets in favour of therewards and pressures of alternative waysof food shopping. In effect, we need to shopas citizens, not just as consumers. That’s atricky juggling act, but shifts in transportpolicies, planning and economic regulationcould make it a whole lot easier.In the debate about the growing power ofthe major supermarkets, the term ‘choice’is used freely by both sides. The multipleretailers claim that shoppers are free tochoose to shop anywhere they want; thepopularity of superstores and supermarketsreflects people’s desire to obtain a widerange of foods at low prices, in an efficient,high-quality environment. Opponentsaccuse the multiples of reducing choice byeliminating other types of food shopping. 1So, what kind of ‘choice’ do people want,how is it affected by supermarket growth,and what (if anything) can the townplanning system do about it?How much choice do consumers want?Research at the University of Lancasterindicates that many, if not most,consumers want a wide choice, both ofplaces to buy food and of food items withinthose places. 2 An ideal choice of placesincludes not only the superstores run byTesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrison,but also discounters like Aldi and Lidl,specialists such as greengrocers anddelicatessens, and even local ‘corner shops’.Discussions with shoppers show that theroles of each of these are widely understoodand valued. A ‘choice’ simply between Tescoand Asda is not adequate.Clearly the superstores (defined as over25,000 sq.ft. sales area) offer the widestchoice of items: not just between brands,but also basic, standard, and luxury quality;Fairtrade, organic and low fat/sugar/salt versions; and so on. Smaller stores(including many of the older supermarketswithin town centres) cannot offer allthis. However, small specialist shops alsowiden choice by offering fresh foods andluxury items unobtainable in the largesupermarkets; market stalls competewell in terms of price and quality of freshfoods; and the corner shop wins in terms ofconvenience.Does the seemingly inevitable growth of thelargest multiples extend or reduce consumerchoice? The answer is both, dependingupon circumstances, and whose choice weare considering. Supermarket growth isaccused of causing a decline in the numbersof other shops and, in the long term, thishas certainly been the case. Yet this link ismore tenuous than many commentatorsthink. For example, the grocery marketshare of convenience stores (defined asunder 3,000 sq.ft.) is actually rising, evenif an increasing proportion now belong toTesco and Sainsbury. 3 And farmers’ markets– of which there are now over 500 – steadilyincrease in popularity.Does the location of stores affect consumerchoice? Yes, especially for those who cannotregularly use a car for food shopping,though this is a small minority becausemany households who do not own a car getlifts to and from supermarkets. Choice isobviously also limited in remote rural areas.But, elsewhere, several stores of differenttypes can typically be found within 10-15minutes’ drive time from people’s homesor places of work. Many people seesuperstores owned by different companiesas essentially similar, and tend to use themost convenient one.Does town planning policy affect consumerchoice? Yes, because planning permissionis needed for newly built stores or forextensions to existing stores. Plannersare told by central government advice to“[enhance] consumer choice by makingprovision for a range of shopping, leisureand local services, which allow genuinechoice to meet the needs of the entirecommunity, and particularly sociallyexcludedgroups”. 4 However, their powers inthis respect are fairly limited. The guidancerequires them to restrict new developmentto existing town and district centres, unlessthere is no “suitable and available site”within any such centres. But the multiplesargue back: first, that savings found inbuilding on cheaper out-of-centre sites canbe passed on to the consumer in the formof lower prices; and, second, that areas ofgreatest social exclusion are often edge-oftownhousing estates, far away from towncentres. Furthermore, where supermarketshave been built within or on the edge oftown centres, they compete more stronglywith existing food shopping within thesecentres.Can planners help smaller retailers to competewith supermarkets? In direct terms, no:discrimination between individuals orcompanies in respect of planning approvalis unlawful. A proposal to build a newsupermarket can be refused only on‘planning grounds’. These may include theeconomic impacts upon other retailers, butonly if the proposal is located outside anexisting centre. In addition, any change inthe type of retailing to be carried out fromexisting retail premises is not consideredto be a ‘material change of use’, and doesnot normally require planning consent.So, for example, a Tesco Express store canlegitimately replace a Spar grocer or evena non-food store, and there is little thatplanners can do about this.Therefore, those who oppose the increasingdomination of the market by large retailersshould not rely upon the planning systemto help. They should also remember thatwhile most shoppers profess to supportsmall shops, they vote with their feet forthe multiples. Small shops will survive byoffering the specialist items, quality ofservice and convenience which the largestores often lack.1See for example, http://community.foe.co.uk/campaigns/real_food/supermarkets/index.html andwww.tescopoly.org.2 For a summary of this project see www.esds.ac.uk/qualidata/support/q5049.asp.3 www.thelocalshop.com/defaultasp?Call=Article&ID=45524 Department of Communities and Local.Government, Planning policy statement six: town centresand retail, para. 1.4.10 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.org www.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 11


Opinion: Alan KnightIt’s the end of a hard week and you’re feelingpeckish. You prepare fish and chips – it isFriday, after all – and eat out the back tocatch those last rays of sun. Getting chilly,you turn on your patio heater, eat up anddoze off…You hear the familiar music first and thenthere’s Parky, ever the affable chat show host,strolling down in front of you to introducethe evening’s guests:“From the ocean we have Cod, we haveOrganic Chip from Sussex, we have CookingOil from the rainforests of Indonesia andfinally, all the way from China, we have therenowned outdoor enthusiast, Patio Heater.”As the show rolls on, their life stories unfold.Cod describes the unsustainable harvestingof the world’s oceans and the collapse ofcommercial fisheries. He stuns the audienceby predicting the last commercial fish will becaught in 2050.Organic Chip tells the heart-warming storyof her caring, chemical-free upbringing notfar from the studio.Cooking Oil almost brings Parky to tearswith her account of rainforest destruction,the murder of wildlife and the exploitation offorest people. She enviously talks about herneighbours in the garden furniture industry,who enjoy high standards of sustainableforest management and certification underthe Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).Yet it is Patio Heater, the final guest, whoshamefully steals the show. The studioaudience gasp with shock when he revealsthat in just one hour he squanders as muchenergy as 400 cups of tea.Hmm, tea… The thought jolts you awake.Funny dream, you think, or perhaps itcounts as a nightmare. Aren’t products thattalk pretty scary?Well no, I don’t think they are. Actually, Iwish products could tell us their story. Andthe first of five ambitions I have for thefuture of retail, and for the planet, is thatone day soon a lot more of them will.Product stories are just a start if we really want sustainable shoppingFood that talks?Ambition 1: products will talk!Products need to tell stories. The storyI want to hear is about the product’s‘upbringing’ and how that relates to the bigenvironmental and social problems facingthe world, not the ‘product story’ about thebrand values the marketing department hasimposed. Birds Eye doubtless has some keybrand values, for example, but the real storyis fish harvesting.Ambition 2: we’ll judge their stories againstglobal challengesWhy should we care about a product’sstory? Because if we heard a whole shoppingtrolley’s worth, it would read like a checklistof the big issues of our time. Things webuy are implicated in global warming, thedepletion of fisheries, water scarcity andhuman tragedy. Unless we know that, wecan’t do much about it.I want stories to be judged against theseenvironmental and social issues. Globally,three challenges stand out:• To eliminate poverty.• To build a low carbon economy.• To live within the limits of theplanet’s resources.We know it already would take the resourcesof three planets for everyone to live thelifestyle we enjoy in the UK and, by 2050,global population will grow by half again– that’s an extra 3 billion. If the planet wasa supermarket and the history of mankindwas condensed into 60 years – not manyretailers are older than 60 years – the planethas to boost sales by 5,000 percent in justthree years. No retailer could do that, yetthat’s what we’re demanding!Ambition 3: environmental impactassessment moves from stores to productsIn practice, to judge product stories againstthese challenges they need to be told indetail. They need to be stories, sure, butstories packed with facts. They need to bebased on thorough environmental impactassessments.12 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.orgWhen a supermarket wants to build a newstore it has to complete an environmentalimpact assessment of that building. But thesame supermarket can then fill itself withproducts whose embedded carbon, naturalresource use and pollution footprint havenot been considered. There is a profoundmismatch between the requirementsapplied to large buildings and infrastructureprojects, and the shortage of even voluntaryanalysis by manufacturers and retailers ofthe products they sell. That needs to change,and fast.Ambition 4: less green consumerism, morechoice editingWho should drive this change? Who is theaudience for product stories? Is it retailersor customers? We often assume it’s thecustomer, but my fourth ambition is thatmany of the big decisions are made by theretailer.The growth in localfood shouldn’t bea huge threat tothe gig box retailersThe UK government’s Roundtable onSustainable Consumption looked at 19products where a greener version had takena significant proportion of market share andconcluded that all of them had achieved thatshare through the interventions of eithergovernment or business. The solution, theyconcluded, lies with the big brands and retailchains. It is the choices they make with theirmain product ranges that will make thedifference been meeting global challengesand dismal failure.The Roundtable introduced the conceptof ‘choice editing’, where retailers usesustainability as a criterion for deciding whichproducts to make available to consumers.This brings us back to our fish and chips– in 2006, Wal-Mart, the largest retailer offish in the world, announced that it wouldThere’s Parky, ever the affablechat show host, strolling down infront of you to introduce theevening’s guestsswitch to sourcing all of its wild-caught fishfrom Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)certified sources over the next 3-5 years. Thiscommitment was echoed in January 2007 byMarks & Spencer, which committed to sellonly MSC certified fish by 2012. The palm oilindustry and retailers have a roundtable onpalm oil, some retailers are backing organicsand, in April, Wyevale Garden Centresannounced it was to phase out gas-poweredpatio heaters.Ambition 5: size will not matter!Some people hope that big box retailing willdecline in favour of local farm shops and,when it comes to food, I too can see the hugeopportunity for specialist and local foodoutlets. As people reconnect with their foodand show greater interest in its life story itfollows that local food will grow. This is agood thing – not because of food miles (Isee that argument fizzling away) but morefor freshness and the desire to support ourlocal farmers. I also see more people growingtheir own food – not good news for any foodoutlet, big or small, but good for the planet!However, the growth in local food shouldn’tbe a huge threat to the big box retailers. Theycan and will stock local. What’s more, whilstthey might not relish it, they could absorbthe loss of that revenue anyway because theystill command the market in so many otherproducts – loo rolls, soap powder, toastersand DVDs, and tea, coffee and bananas,none of which have a local angle.I think this is no bad thing. If the DIYindustry was still small hardware shops wewould have no Forest Stewardship Council,and if the world’s fish market was still smallfishmongers the Marine Stewardship Councilwouldn’t exist either.Imagine if Tesco or Wal-Mart only sold yousustainable fish, zero carbon chips, rainforestfriendlycooking oil and you couldn’t get a gaspowered patio heater anywhere! How muchbetter off would the world be? Maybe not alot, if we are just talking fish and chips, butimagine if every supper you ate for the restof your life was zero carbon, helped reducepoverty and was harvested within the finitelimits of the planet – that would be a hugestep in the right direction. Imagine everysingle product you buy and use in your lifehaving the same proud story. Who has thepower to do that – your local farm shop orTesco and Wal-Mart? The answer’s both!So size shouldn’t matter when it comesto green retailing. If we allow both retailconcepts to prosper we can have our lowcarbon, fair trade, sustainable, zero fat,cruelty free cake and we can eat it. Yes, Iknow that sounds ambitious – but then a lotis at stake.Alan Knight is anindependent advisor onsustainable development toretail. He is Products andConsumption Commissionerfor the UK SustainableDevelopment Commissionand chaired the UK FoodIndustry Sustainability StrategyChampions’ Group on EthicalTrading. He also co-chairedthe UK Roundtable onSustainable Consumption.alan.knight@singleplanetliving.comwww.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 13© Claire Carter 1 www.clairecarterphotography.com


Where nextfor food retail?How will we shop in fi fteen year’s time? Will supermarkets still exist?Which trends today point to where things will head?We asked ten leading players and commentators to place their bets…Sue DibbIt’s 2022, you walk – yes walk, not drive – to yournearby food emporium. Here you top up with locallygrown produce, meet a friend for a meal freshlyprepared by the community chef and then pick a dish totake home to eat for supper with your extended family,living in a co-operatively owned block. You’ll collectsalad leaves grown in the shared polytunnel on theroof. Meat is now a luxury but champagne – thanks toglobal warming – is cheap and abundantly produced insouthern England.Richard PerksThe supermarket is here to stay. Nothingon the horizon can challenge it, and forgood reason. Whether in-store or over theinternet, supermarkets have transformedour attitudes to buying food, offering awide range at lower prices and reliablequality. They capitalize on economies ofscale and that is why so few retailersdominate the food sector in WesternThe big questioncountries. Supermarkets have taken costout of supply chains to the benefit ofconsumers.Concerns over sustainability, theprovenance of food and ethical credentialsare still very much a minority interest.But supermarkets cannot afford to ignorethem, particularly as they are backedby considerable media pressure. Yet they arebest placed to respond to changes in consumerattitudes, because they have the networks andexpertise to handle them.Supermarkets get a bad press these days, thevictims of a virulent campaign from pressuregroups acting for small stores and a mediahappy to publish grievances. But while smallstores resent the fact that supermarkets arefar more effective retailers, customers relishsuperstore services and visit them in everincreasingnumbers.There is no going back. Markets, includingfarmers markets, could not cope with thedemand or the vast array of imported foodswhich consumers have come to expect. In fact,only the supermarkets are in a position torespond to concerns about their food, itsquality and where it has come from.Richard Perks is Director of retail research at consumer,media and market research company MINTEL.www.mintel.comNick Monger-GodfreyWhile global climate change is becominga pressing issue for every major UK foodretailer, the future of the British countrysideis not being championed in the same way. YetBritain won’t stay ‘green and pleasant’ unlessrelationships between retailers and farmersare radically transformed.As the NFU’s ‘Why Farming Matters’ campaignpoints out, over the last 10 years, selfsufficiency in indigenous foods has fallen by15 percent. Defra figures show, furthermore,that farming output has dropped by some 18percent over the same period. If this trendcontinues, large swathes of our countrysidewill be unrecognisable in 15 years’ time.Our farmers are custodians of thecountryside – they maintain farmland,hedges, and coppices, providing habitatfor wildlife and promoting biodiversity.There is a pressing need to extend theprinciples behind customers’ enthusiasmfor ethically traded products to domesticfarming as well as the developing world.Over the next 15 years I would like tosee farmers working in partnership withretailers – not for them. And I want tosee farmers confident they’ll earn enoughto reinvest in their farms.Waitrose has always strived to build uplong term relationships with its farmers,based on honesty and trust, and we believeit is right to pay our suppliers fairprices. This commitment comes not onlyfrom the ethical trading principles at theheart of our business but also from theinside perspective we gain from owning ourown farm. The 4,000-acre Leckford Estatein Hampshire supplies our shops with abroad range of products, including apples,mushrooms and free range chickens.Our actions today as retailers will shapefarming for future generations. And onething is certain: a viable, thriving anddiversified farming sector, once lost, willbe lost forever, and Britain’s countrysidewould be the poorer for it.Nick Monger-Godfrey is Head of Corporate SocialResponsibility at John Lewis Partnership, owners ofWaitrose. www.waitrose.comCarlo PetriniDespite making hefty profits for majorretail chains, the supermarket model basedon agroindustry and economies of scale isunsustainable. It fails to provide good,well-produced foods, it is unfair to smallproducers and it shifts goods over needlessdistances.This will change, as consumers demand tastier,eco-friendly food that conserves biodiversityand respects workers in the production chain.This is hard economic fact.Shoppers will force supermarkets to review theway they operate and make the food they sell‘greener’.Supermarkets won’t vanish in the next fifteenyears but I do think they will undergo a slowtransformation towards specialisation.In Italy, the Eataly superstore in Turin isa prototype of the future. It sells food ofthe highest quality — sometimes in limitedquantities — carefully sourcing products witha close eye on ‘food miles’. Then there’s theCoop, which, working with Slow Food, stocksaccording to seasonality and origin.As local and farmers’ markets enjoy mountingsuccess, supermarkets will ultimately have toadapt. How? By supplementing mass-producedfoodstuffs with fresh, local, fair tradeproduce that is both tasty and sustainable.This trend is already happening, and it ishere to stay.Carlo Petrini is founder and president of Slow Food.www.slowfood.com‘Big box’ retail still exists but only as localwarehouses for the mundane things in life – recycledtoilet paper, environmentally-friendly cleaningproducts and fair-trade staples. You could drive yourelectric scoot-cart, but the cost of parking and roadtaxes means it’s cheaper to have monthly deliveries,automatically updating your order with a mobileorganiser. Packaging is simple and refillable.Crystal ball gazing is notoriously difficult – if thevision of the future I grew up with had come true,we’d all now get our nutrition from pills and packets,like characters from a ‘70s Smash advert. Yet, tocreate a more sustainable world we need to work outwhat it might look like in practice, so we can put inplace the policies and incentives that will help getus there. That means understanding how current trendscan be harnessed to promote greater sustainability,such as advances in technology, and which are takingus in the wrong direction, like our ever-growingappetite for cheaper ‘stuff’.Retailers have to play a big part in meeting thechallenges of climate change and sustainabledevelopment, because of their influence within thesupply chain and their direct interaction withcustomers. And they’re on the case, with wind-poweredstores, minimal packaging and local produce amongthe many initiatives underway. The question is notwhether supermarkets and other retailers are willingto respond, but how far they will go.Sue Dibb leads the UK Sustainable Development Commission’steam on Sustainable Consumption and Business, where she iscurrently working to create a vision for sustainable retail that willhelp advise government. www.sd-commission.org.ukSupermarkets are growing in sizefrom an average 35,100 sq. ft. in. 1994 to 45,561 in 2004and number across the globewith 124 Tesco stores planned to join the 1,779 stores in the UK alone.Quick-stop inner city shopping means more tripsrising from the current average of 1.9 trips per week.Supermarkets employ nearly half the UK retail workforcewith 870,000 members of staffbut automatic checkouts are replacing workersby using RFID technology to make orders via bluetooth and GPS.Face-to-face selling is on the up in farmers’ marketswith 500 springing up over the past 10 yearsand organic box deliveries are also boomingwith 300 schemes up and runningbut they haven’t dented supermarket profi tsSigns ofthe timesas Tesco announces an 11percent annual increase to £2.5 billion!Neva FrechevilleReferences at www.foodethicscouncil.orgImage © Claire Carter 1 www.clairecarterphotography.comDavid HughesTwenty years ago, tediously, we used to queue up in the bank forcashiers. The ATM was mooted but some financial pundits argued a holein the wall was too anonymous – that consumers would miss the humaninteraction, even if some bank tellers had less personality than aMalcolm VeigasWhat does the future hold for the 35,000 plus market traders whooffer an alternative shopping experience? With only 15 percent offood retail not governed by supermarkets, the markets industry isa bit player in the bigger scheme of things.Yet we should remember that markets breed entrepreneurs. Afterall, Tesco started life on Hackney Markets, whilst Marks & Spencercan trace its roots back to the ‘Penny Bazaar Stall’ at LeedsKirkgate Market in 1904. The foundations of today’s global retailbrands were laid in humble street markets. Could we see a repeat14 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.org www.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 15machine!We’re in a similar place now when it comes to food shopping. Consumerresearch shows that most supermarket shoppers view the experience asboring, tedious and stressful. In our consumer-driven society, thismust change.Technology will come to the rescue in the shape of Radio FrequencyIdentification (RFID) tags. Within 15 years, these will mean that most‘drudge’ items that we buy on a regular basis (such as toilet paper,soft drinks and pet food) will be restocked by an invisible provider.An in-home inventory will be managed by a third-party provider viaRFID technology.Consumers like to shop but only on their own terms. We love to ponderproducts that have meaning in our lives. We browse, interact with thevendor and ask advice. These are the high-involvement purchases thatbecome the heroes of slow food moments with family and friends.In 15 years, then, we’ll have less drudgery and more of the pleasure– e-tailers for the first and retailers for the second. As for whetherthe ruddy-faced, rotund, stripey-aproned butcher in their traditionallooking shop is employed by Tesco or by a group of market-savvyfarmers, well that’s another story.David Hughes is Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at ImperialCollege London, and Visiting Professor at the University of Kent BusinessSchool and at the Royal Agricultural College.www.profdavidhughes.comperformance?Competing against the retail giants is tough. For small independentsit can be a David and Goliath struggle. But it needn’t be. Over15 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables are grown every year inEurope, and over a third of that is distributed through independentWholesale Markets which serve over a million independent ambulantmarket traders. Even without loyalty schemes and all the other kitthe supermarkets can muster, these traders can tap into the growingnumber of environmentally aware shoppers, who are increasinglylooking for the good quality, locally produced, seasonal food thatthey sell.Local produce markets, the Slow Food movement and British FoodFortnight will reinforce the value of buying local and supportingsmall business. Quality open air markets like The Borough inSouthwark, Leicester and Bury, and Bradford’s own bi-annualInternational Market Festival, will keep the theatre, soul andexperience of markets alive and kicking for generations to come.Malcolm Veigas is Head of Markets at City of Bradford MDC.www.bradfordmarkets.com


James WaltonResearch conducted by IGD in 2006 showed that,for the first time, ethical factors have cometo outweigh product quality as drivers ofconsumer choice. For 68 percent of adults and58 percent of teenagers, a company’s ethicalstance is now more important than its quality,heritage or marketing. That’s a big deal, andit’s a sign of trends that will shape shoppingfor years to come.Consumers, in the affluent West at least, arebecoming more outward-looking. We no longerjust want quality, nutrition and the basicsthat are good for us – retailers have to providethat just to be in the game – we now alsodemand that our food is produced responsibly.It is no longer enough for food to taste good.We want to feel good when we buy it.If it wasn’t for new technology and mediachannels this wouldn’t be happening. It’sbecause of them that we’re more informed aboutthe impact of our purchasing decisions and thatwe have time to care. So it is them that I’mwatching to see where retail is headed next.James Walton is Chief Economist at the food andgrocery research organisation IGD.www.igd.comLucy SiegleElla HeeksSupermarkets are slick operations. Theyhave evolved to provide very cheap,convenient, plentiful food, and have beenallowed to generate significant externalcosts in the process. This is changing.Consumers are waking up to the real cost ofsupermarket food, and society can no longerafford to disregard the externalities.Consumers see the effects of highlyprocessed, transported and packaged foodon the environment, society, and their ownphysical and mental health. In response,they are seeking out sources of simpler,healthier food, from people they can engagewith and trust.Supermarkets are no longer so convenient.Consumers don’t want to plough the aisles,checking the small print, beset by ethicaland health dilemmas, with nobody to helpthem. It’s more convenient for them tobrowse a healthy, ethical selection, wherethey can relax and choose what they like– and chat about it with staff who knowtheir stuff.Multiple retailers have a genius for presenting society with a faitaccompli. From M&S’s Plan A to Terry Leahy on ‘green consumerism’,the message is that supermarket superpower is a fact of life - howelse would we distribute food with such choice and convenience?At the same time, each retailer is also trying to show it is theone who takes the environment the most seriously. We’ve had bananawars, bread wars, milk wars. Now welcome to the green wars as eachretailer battles to a carbon neutral nirvana.This, combined with the burgeoning number of supermarket stores,makes it difficult to conceive of any other way of buying food.As retailers strike a green pose, there’s no doubt that consumerconcerns will be mollified. So at this point we collectively losetrack of the central argument: is this business model the mostsustainable and effective way of feeding the population?In fact, this retail model has proved woefully inadequate atassessing natural capital because it is so fixated on conventionalcapital. We have seen this for the last two decades, as supermarketshave made the supply chain carbon, energy and waste heavy – relyingon air-freight, for instance, and fuelling demands for cosmeticallyperfect food. Should we now trust the same retailers to work outtheir own environmental footprint? Tesco has already pledged touse symbols to show carbon calories – we know green consumers lovea label but what will this really achieve?The default rejoinder from all the big retailers is that they canoffer sustainability at scale by mainstreaming green consumerism.But is there any evidence they can? As they scramble for a piece ofthe non-retail pie, you hear M&S and Sainsburys compete over theamount of West African fairtrade cotton they have bought, but thisis just a tiny fraction of all the cotton they use – how unfair isthe rest of it? As the environmental backdrop worsens, their huge,complex supply chains could become a liability.In fifteen years, we could find that the business model that adaptsbest is bespoke retailing that takes a whole ‘ethical’ view. Theseare likely to be smaller retailers who have strong relationshipswith overseas producers (such as fairtrade or equitrade), investedin sustainable water management, or sought to increase nationalfood security by growing locally. Carrier bags will go as the oilAt the same time, government policy is likelyto force supermarkets – along with all otherbusinesses – to start paying the full cost ofthe pollution and packaging waste that theygenerate.All businesses exist to meet consumer demandas best they can with the resources available.Supermarkets have done this brilliantly forsome time. Now the nature of the demand and theresources available are changing dramatically.Supermarkets are badly positioned to handlethese changes. Their supply chains andinfrastructure have evolved to serve a differentpurpose, in a different context. Younger,innovative enterprises, such as Abel & Cole,have evolved to suit the current purpose andcontext – healthy food you can trust, withminimum externalities.Ella Heeks is a director of Abel & Cole,the organic home delivery service.www.abel-cole.co.ukprice rises, and supermarkets will look increasingly different. Butit’s hard to conceive that the supermarket will disappear any timesoon, even to be superseded by a retail model which understands thetrue value of natural capital.Judith WhateleyLucy Siegle writes the Observer’s ethical living column. She alsocontributes to magazines including Marie Claire, Grazia and Elle.observer.guardian.co.ukSupermarkets are powerful now but that will change if we seize theopportunity. Their growth and clout will be curbed by caps on marketshare at the local and national levels, by a grocery market regulator,by increased opposition to new stores from local communities, andby sustained campaigning to highlight the negative impacts ofsupermarkets.We need to make the most of the time this buys us to build differentways of producing and distributing food – different because they aredemocratic and sustainable. People worry that supermarkets may betaking over their lives and their neighbourhoods, and they are moreinterested than ever in healthy, local and fresh food, but in theabsence of alternatives on any sizeable scale they’ll keep pacing downthe same old aisles. To offer that alternative we need structuralchange, not just a smattering of small initiatives. And so far, Ithink, we’ve lacked the vision that takes.But if we fail to provide an alternative, then by 2022 supermarketswill be bigger and badder than ever. They’ll have captured even moreof people’s food budgets by scaling up their ‘local’ food rangesand introducing schemes that look green and right-on. We’ll havelittle choice but to shop at the ‘big two’, as specialist shops andfarmers’ markets struggle in the face of rising rents and rates anddiscriminatory legislation.So, if we want a fairer, more sustainable future, we need to thinkbig too.Judith Whateley campaigns on corporate power in the food system andhelps co-ordinate Tescopoly, an alliance of organisations concernedwith the negative impacts of supermarket power.www.tescopoly.orgWatch what you wish for !I’m due to have a baby in a month and I’vebeen giving a lot of thought to how her foodtastes will develop. In pregnancy, I havecontinued to eat as I usually do – buyingseasonal produce from the local market (Ilive in central France). Did she get fed upwith cabbage, leeks and sprouts duringthe winter months, I wondered? Now I’mcheating a bit, sneaking in the odd Provençaltomato, hoping she’ll sense their sweetnessin utero. Next (all being well) comes thebreastfeeding. Funnily enough, the Frenchstate pregnancy guide warns off eating garlicwhen breastfeeding in case the baby hatesthe taste; I’ll give it a try it anyway, just tosee how she responds.Then onto the world of solid foods. Likemany mothers, I plan to purée the foods myhusband and I eat, without sugar and salt (asis advised). But here comes the time I fear:the time when the food industry will try topersuade me, as a mother, what’s healthy formy baby. I may be wary of it, but I am alsoaware that the multinational food industry isrelying on people like to me to help generatetheir future profits.‘Health and wellness’ is, after all, the latestindustry megatrend. Food companies arefalling over to redefine themselves as ‘healthand wellness’ companies. Danone’s missionstatement is to “bring health through foodto the largest number of people”. Marslaunched a Nutrition for Health & Well-Being unit in 2005, aiming to be a “trustedpartner in healthy lifestyles”. In January,the International Business Leaders Forumreported that it’s in companies’ bestinterests to “raise their game when it comesto consumer health issues, particularlyobesity”.Globally, this is leading to three relatedchanges on our supermarket shelves. First,we’re seeing more new and reformulated‘healthy’ products. In the past few monthsalone, Walkers crisps (part of Pepsico)announced their switch to sunseed oil; Cokeunveiled Diet Coke Plus, complete with niacin,Vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc; and theDutch TOP Institute of Food and NutritionIs a health driven food industry not what we wanted?reported it is engineering ingredients for itsindustry partners to “prevent obese peoplefrom developing diabetes”. This month, thenew journal Kids Nutrition Report headlinedUnilever’s new ‘brainfood range’: lunchboxsnacks and flavoured milk drinks to helpmental development – just launched inTurkey.A second trend is endorsements of thesefoods by health associations. When I livedin the United States, it seemed that everybreakfast cereal was endorsed by someone.I kept a few packets for posterity, like FruityBurst Cheerios, endorsed by the AmericanHeart Association because it’s low insaturated fat – despite its high sugar content.The latest move comes from Australia, wherethe National Heart Foundation has lent its‘health tick’ to nine McDonald’s meals.The final change is placing health at thecentre of food marketing campaigns. We’regoing to see more nutrient and health claims,more depictions of health on packaging, andmore advertising and promotion that tells useating these products is the way to health. InBrazil, late last year, I saw a Coke ad: drinkCoke because it will bring you “hydration”.But isn’t this what we have all wanted? Amore responsive, health driven food industry,right? The World Health Organization andmany national governments have askedthe food industry to change their productportfolios to help fight against obesity, andthat is just what they are doing. But I’mreminded of a story a friend told me. She’dmet a neighbour crying in the street a fewmonths ago, whose dentist had said herbaby’s teeth were rotten. She was confused,she sobbed, because “I try to give my babyhealthy foods”. It turned out that meantfoods she thought were healthy, like kids’yoghurts.I took a trip to my nearest hypermarket tocheck out these yoghurts for myself. In adazzling, cartoon-filled four metre stretchof aisle, I picked up some Tout petits filous“specially adapted for babies from fivemonths”, picturing a baby and labelledOpinion: Corinna Hawkes“free from preservatives”, “natural sourceof calcium” and “enriched with iron”. But acloser read and some arithmetic revealedeach serving to contain over 10g of sugar.Another brand declared itself as suitablefor babies from four months and hadnearly 15 percent sugar. And there was me,remembering the advice I’d been given, thatbreast was best for six months and babiesshouldn’t be fed added sugar.Yet these types of products represent thehealth and wellness trend – and, often,genuine industry good will. I can already seethe appeals for greater regulation in a fewyears time. Back in January in the UnitedStates, Cadbury Schweppes was forced towithdraw its “All Natural” advertising from7-Up, following the threat of litigationfrom an NGO – who pointed out that highfructosecorn syrup is not a natural product.Governments may have asked industry to doit, but they cannot escape from the debateabout what is and what is not ‘healthy’, andtheir role in protecting consumers fromconfusion.As for me, a soon-to-be mother, I want themessage of good food and health to comefrom me, not from some new-fangledproduct or a health marketing campaign. Ijust hope I can get on with instilling positivefood experiences in my child without theconstant need to fend off other messages.Wish me luck. I think I’ll need it.Corinna Hawkes is a ResearchFellow at the InternationalFood Policy Research Institute,where she leads the researchprogram on diet quality anddiet change. She is alsohonorary research fellow atthe Centre for Food Policy, atCity University, London.c.hawkes@cgiar.org16 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.org www.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 17


Bringing fair trade homeHow can Mexican farmers get better prices domestically?WORLDVIEWCynthia Marin JiménezCynthia Marin Jiménezran an academicprogramme at theAutonomousUniversity of Yucatan,Mexico, which involvedworking with students,teachers andresearchers indevelopment projectswith Indigenouscommunities. She hasan MBA from ITESOUniversity and hasvolunteered at the FoodEthics Council.chanbej@yahoo.comFair trade labelling started in Mexico when,in 1988, coffee farmers in Chiapas teamedup with groups in the Netherlands and the MaxHavelaar label was born. Since then, fair tradehas gone from strength to strength in Europe.But the country that initiated this tradingpartnership has not seen the same progress.Mexican coffee and honey are important inglobal fair trade, but the concept is almostunknown in the domestic market. Mexican smallfarmers and Indigenous communities have fewopportunities to sell their goods for a fair pricewithin the country. For these small businesses,management, resources, finances and quality arethe principal worries and obstacles, and, for themost part, market prices are low.I have been working with an NGO network inMexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the homeland ofthe Mayan Yucatecan Culture and the mainhoney producing region in the country. TheseNGOs work in development projects, basedmainly on organic agriculture. A considerablepercentage of the honey produced in the YucatanPeninsula goes to fair trade markets. Yet acertain amount of honey does not fulfil exportrequirements, mainly because of high humidityat the beginning and at the end of the season,and is therefore sold domestically. This honeyis of good quality, but the price it is sold at inthe local market doesn’t reflect that. Producersof vegetables and handicrafts face the sameproblems. We have been helping producers toaddress this by finding new ways for them to sellon the domestic market.Getting a fair price for local produce in Mexicois harder than that you might think. It is easy tobuy goods cheaply, whether from markets, smallshops or supermarkets, and the concept thatyou might buy in ways that support the localeconomy has barely caught on outside the bigcities. It is not easy to find retailers willing to buysmall volumes of products, even when they offerbetter quality to consumers. That’s particularlytrue in small cities like Merida, the biggest in theYucatan Peninsula.One method groups have used to get a fair pricefor local produce is the box scheme, known asa Sabucan after the Mayan word for a jute bag.This is new to Merida. An NGO called MAC(Misioneros, A.C.) provides training for six oreight small farmers (including women) to show18 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.orgthem ways of working together as a co-operative,as this way they can offer a greater variety ofvegetables and fruits. They can also add somehome-cooked foods to the bag, for example cornbread, honey sweets, chilli sauce, chocolate barsand so on. Customers of the scheme receive a6kg bag of local fruit, vegetables and additionalhomemade foods for an equivalent of £6.00($120 pesos) delivered to them every two weeks.The NGO subsidises distribution and does thedeliveries, but is working with the farmers tomake the scheme self-sufficient.One method groupshave used to get a fair pricefor local produce is thebox scheme, known as aSabucan after the Mayanword for a jute bagInitial results were good, mainly because themajority of buyers were people from otherNGOs, relatives and friends. Trying to increasethe number of buyers is the next target. Thechallenge is to do this within a minimal budget– a familiar problem facing small projects thatdepend on external funding before they cansustain themselves.In spite of these difficulties, the farmers involvedhave been happy with the results and, for themost part, have adopted the box scheme formula.Without any help from the government andwithout any policy developments to protect thesmall local farmers, the scheme is working. Withvolunteers helping to increase the sales, Sabucancould become a realistic option for small farmerscompeting in the domestic market. There’s stillvast progress to be made, but we think we’reheading the right way to bring fair trade home– so producers get a fair price on the domesticmarket and not just for their exports.Organic on the upGood news for UK producersCAPITAL CONCERNSMeg Brown is SociallyResponsible InvestmentAnalyst at financialservices companyCitigroup.meg.brown@citi.comSource: company and media announcementsCompanyAsdaMorrisonMarks & SpencerSainsburyTescoCommentChristmas and New Year saw record supermarketsales of premium own brand labels and eachof the major retailers benefited from strongsales of organic foods. Their trading statementswere littered with comments about consumers’interest in ‘ethical’ products – the table belowlists some examples.What’s behind this trend? Well it’s partly to dowith health. Until now, the media and campaigngroups have told consumers a confusing storyabout the health benefits of eating organicfood. Recently though, evidence has emergedthat consumers do benefit – or, at least, avoidpotential harm – by going organic. Researchersat Liverpool University during 2006 foundthat the organic milk they sampled was higherin poly-unsaturated fatty acid, particularlyOmega 3, than non-organic milk throughout theproduction year. Beef produced from animalsfed a diet high in forage, rather than grain, hasa similar benefit, and organic standards requirethat cattle be fed mainly forage. The FoodStandards Agency says that “eating organic foodcan help to minimise consumption of pesticideresidues and additives”.An organic shopper who believes that theaccepted nutritional differences in organic foodwill benefit them or their children, or that eatingfewer pesticide residues exposes them to fewerrisks, is making a rational health-based choice inthe context of ongoing scientific uncertainty. Thisaccumulation of evidence supporting organicproduce, coupled with ongoing food scares, islikely to continue to underpin the growth in thismarket, which the Soil Association projects willrise to over £2.5 billion by 2010.Importantly, it isn’t just the usual suspectsbuying into this trend. According to AC Nielsen,some 80 percent of UK households boughtorganic foods at some time in 2006, and theynow account for almost two percent of totalsupermarket till sales. A significant changein recent years has been the increase in lowerincome groups entering this market – around50 percent of lower income groups occasionallypurchase an organic food item.Marks and Spencer’s high-profile ‘Plan A’, whichincludes a commitment to triple sales of organicfood, will raise the pressure on their competitorsand will further boost the ‘ethical’ trend. Thegrowing focus on local sourcing, a response inpart to criticism over high imports of organicfood, makes this a big opportunity for UK foodproducers. For a sector that’s suffered in recentyears, that’s seriously good news.This article is adapted from a research note publishedin February by Citigroup’s Sustainability Research Team.“With customer numbers up, the re-invigoration of our food business with better quality produce,more premium and organic ranges and the widest choice of local products, this proved to be the perfectChristmas present for everyone that shopped with us over the festive period,” said Andy Bond, presidentand CEO of ASDA.Wm Morrison said sales of The Best range were ahead 40 percentMarks and Spencer is thought to have seen sales of organic produce rise by half over the six-weekChristmas window (source Financial Times, 16th Jan 07)“It was a story of quality foods at Christmas,” Justin King (CEO) said, describing growth at the top end as“extraordinary”. The group’s Taste the Difference range jumped by 20 percent. The chain sold twice as manyBritish organic and premium range turkeys as it did the previous year. There was a 50 percent jump in salesof free range products.Sainsbury claims 30 percent of the UK market for organic food, which it says is clearly entering themainstream. It now has 430 own-brand organic lines and around 15 percent of the milk it sells is organicOrganic foods were up by 39 percent. The Finest range notched up record sales of £50m duringChristmas week, with sales of Finest meat and poultry products ahead 55 percent on 2005 levels.Sales of fresh organic ranges were up 39 percent, with organic turkey sales double the levels of a year earlierwww.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 19


The Business PagesCan retailers savethe world?Tom BerryIt was back in October 2005 that LeeScott, the CEO of Wal-Mart, started awave of groundbreaking sustainabilityannouncements from the supermarketsector. He committed Wal-Mart and theirUK subsidiary, ASDA, to initiatives thatinclude sending zero waste to landfill,sourcing all their energy from renewables,and selling more sustainable products. Sixmonths later, Sir Terry Leahy outlinedTesco’s 10-point Community Plan and, inJanuary this year, he set out their plan “todeliver a revolution in green consumption”.He promised independently audited cuts inC02 from the company’s operations, carbonlabelling on all products and a thrust tomake green choices available to millionsof consumers. This announcement camein the same week that Marks & Spencerpublished their £200m ‘Plan A’, promisingto cut waste, sell significantly more fairtrade and organic products, and make thecompany carbon neutral. Justin King ofSainsbury’s, has also made big sustainabilitycommitments and said environmental andethical issues are core business drivers forthem in 2007.Will these plans really have a lastingimpact? I should declare an interest hereand say that all of these companies (withthe exception of ASDA) are partners ofForum for the Future. But we’re not alonein believing that these announcements arevery good news, for both the retail sectorand the planet.So why such good news? There are anumber of reasons. Respected businessleaders such as Stuart Rose and TerryLeahy have made their commitmentsvery publicly. When they talk about theimportance of environmental and socialissues, other business chiefs will listen. Thesheer size and clout of these companies alsomeans that they can radiate impacts up anddown their supply chain. Used in the rightway, the retailers’ powerful position willenable incredibly positive change across thefood industry. And their reach allows thesecompanies to mainstream sustainability forall consumers, not just the affluent or the‘green’.However, there are more fundamentalbusiness reasons why sustainability willstay at the forefront leading food retailcompanies of the future. For a start, retailers’growing emphasis on sustainability willcontinue to protect their licence to operate.These companies are so big, with such majorinfluence, that they risk becoming lightningconductors for all kinds of opposition. Thatmeans they have an incentive to becomegood corporate citizens across a wholerange of environmental and social issues.The growing sophistication, awarenessand demands of customers are probablythe most significant drivers that will keepthese issues at the forefront of decisionmaking for some time to come. JustinKing said recently, “Green issues andhealth concerns are now firmly rooted inthe mainstream consciousness and I expectthem to become ever more important.” Thesupermarket industry is hyper-competitiveand sustainability has become a key issue intheir competition for customers. Addressingsustainability is now a matter of survivalfor such consumer-led companies.In addition there is brand positioning. Marks& Spencer and Waitrose have always beenhigh-end, high-quality and higher-priceplayers. They clearly realise that their brandwill be reinforced and their customers keptloyal by tackling sustainability issues. Thisis great news – there is enough of an affluentand concerned market to drive ahead thischange. This trend can only grow – forDax Lovegrove, Head of Business &Industry Relations, WWFPick of the bunch: Marks and Spencer’s Plan A isa superb action plan that tackles a wide rangeof sustainability issues and demonstrates areal commitment to managing the retailer’sextended footprints.Bad apple: Tesco’s recent announcementshows good intentions for incorporatingthe lifecycle of its products into its carbonmanagement. However, it is slow to engage onbroader supply chain impacts.Fay Mansell, Chair, National Federation ofWomen’s InstitutesPick of the bunch: Sainsbury’s removed allcarrier bags from the checkouts for a day andpromoted the use of re-usable bags by givingthem away free to customers in an effort tochange customer behaviour towards carrierbags.Bad apple: News that Asda sells individuallywrapped dried apricots.example, the market for fair trade productsis expected to grow by nearly 140 percentover the next five years. Sustainabilityis also an increasingly important part of‘premium brand’ positioning – one of thefastest growing market segments for allconsumers, not just the affluent – at othersupermarkets too.Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda play a crucialrole in making sustainable products andservices mass-market. Tesco says thatcustomers “…want our help to do more inthe fight against climate change”. Linkingproducts and promotions to environmentalimpact, ethical trade, or local sourcingalready provides some significantopportunities in a number of categories.At the moment, however, most shoppersstill put price and quality way ahead ofethical and environmental issues. Tescohas promised to help remove this pricebarrier, moving sustainable choice into themainstream. Others will follow, if not beatthem to it.So, given all this great news, what’s stillneeded? First, the retailers need to maketheir ambitious campaigns a reality. Onlaunching Wal-Mart’s plans, Lee Scottsaid, “These goals are both ambitiousand aspirational, and I’m not sure how toachieve them…” and Stuart Rose said,“This is a deliberately ambitious plan. WeSUPERMARKET PLEDGES – CRITICS’ CHOICEHarriet Lamb, Director, FairtradeFoundationPick of the bunch: Commitment by Sainsburysto switch ALL their bananas to Fairtrade andtheir willingness to engage so proactively withsmallholder groups and with the trade unionmovement to meet that commitment.Bad banana: Asda/Wal-Mart slashing the priceof bananas to 70p per kg, triggering anotherround in the price war that is so damaging forthe banana farmers and workers who pick upthe tab in the end.Andrew Simms, Policy Director, thenew economics foundation and author ofTescopoly: how one shop came out on top andwhy it mattersPick of the bunch: The Co-op for its levelheadedassessment of the limits to biofuels.Bad apple: Tesco’s massive hypermarketexpansion plans that lock-in car-basedshopping and surgically remove the economicheart of communities to retail parks.don’t have all the answers…”. Many of thedevelopments in the past 18 months havebeen groundbreaking commitments ratherthan groundbreaking performance. Actualchange has only just begun.Second, all the retailers have said theyneed to work with suppliers, partners andgovernment to make the plans a reality.To make a real difference, they will alsoneed to work with each other. This hasstarted and the work on ‘collaborativedistribution’, led by the IGD in the UK, isa great example of action across industry.Yet, in such a hyper-competitive industry,more work needs to be done to ensure thatcollaboration delivers. Take the area ofwaste. M&S has committed to restrictingthe range of materials it uses in packaging,Tesco to labelling according to whetherit can be re-used, recycled or composted,and Sainsbury’s to dramatically increasingthe amount of compostable packaging.To truly make it easier for consumersto recycle, there will need to be someconsistency in these developments acrossall retailers (as well as in local governmentrecycling rules). From the point of viewof a supplier, for example, something assimple in theory as aligning the differingshelf widths in stores would allow themto make the growing amount of ‘shelfready’packaging more efficient at source.Competition helps stimulate innovationbut in some areas collaboration, or at leastagreement, is needed to establish commonboundaries and goals.Third, there is more work to do on helpingconsumers to make more sustainablechoices. An influential report called Iwill if you will, published last year by theSustainable Consumption Roundtable,concluded that we need to make the rightchoices much easier for people to take. Inthis spirit, supermarkets are doing moreand more ‘choice editing’, on fair trade,organics and climate change. For example,as of March this year, Sainsbury’s hassold only Fairtrade bananas, and Waitrosepledged this month to selling only organicor Leaf Marque fresh and frozen produceby 2010. 1 Tesco’s commitment to “workwith others to develop an accepted andcommonly understood measure of thecarbon footprint of every product wesell…” is a groundbreaking step inproviding customers better information toenable more sustainable choices. However,there is a danger that some of theseschemes in the pipeline won’t resonatewith consumers, or that the proliferationof competing labels and campaigns willleave the consumer more confused andless empowered than before. More work isneeded to understand how climate change,and sustainability more broadly, can best becommunicated to consumers to change theirbehaviour.Last, and most fundamentally, the retailindustry of the future will need to addressboth the type and level of consumptionthat they promote. Products will need tobe ‘good’ across their life-cycle even ifthey don’t fit in one of the niches like fairtrade, organic or low carbon. In addition,retailers will need to address ways in whichto decouple increased material sales andfinancial growth. UK consumers throw awayseven times their bodyweight in rubbisheach year, which includes about a third ofall the food they buy. Reducing packaging,promoting lower carbon products andmaking more lines fair trade are all steps inthe right direction. However, retailers willneed to work out how to make money notonly from helping consumers buy moreof the ‘good’ products but also by helpingthem buy better, not more.Putting sustainability right at the heart ofcreating value will lead to a fundamentallydifferent food retail environment in thefuture. Forum for the Future is currentlyworking with Tesco, Unilever and industryopinion leaders to try and understand whatsuch a sustainable retail future might looklike. We hope this kind of work will helpto ensure the pace and depth of change isenough to meet the urgency of the problemsat hand. Commitments are good, butsignificant change is what we really need.1 In order to achieve LEAF Marque status,farms have to demonstrate high standardsof environmental stewardship.Tom Berry is Principal Sustainability Advisor at thesustainable development charity Forum for the Future.t.berry@forumforthefuture.org.ukGreen grudgeVicki Hird© Calliste LelliottThe big supermarkets are trying veryhard to convince us that they are green. Infact some, with business good sense, areactually doing useful things like introducingfully labelled compostable packaging(Sainsbury), keeping GM out of most of thefood chain (M&S), cutting energy use perstore (most), and signing up to a sustainablepalm oil roundtable (all). They’ve come outwith Community Plans and Plan As andResponsible Retailing Initiatives and soon…But Friends of the Earth has, consistently,been a bit grudging with its praise. Whydon’t we welcome these initiatives withopen arms? Well we could, but we neverhave much time here for praise. And wehave even less of it when supermarkets areshouting loudly about their green actionsin the media but undoing any good deedsbehind the scenes. How? By underminingthe local planning system, building moreand larger stores where communities don’twant them; by expanding at such a ratethat no local stores can compete and theirgreenhouse gas emissions grow; also bytreating suppliers and farmers here andoverseas so badly that workers can’t earna living wage and the farmed environmentgets trashed. Low farm prices mean we’relosing three dairy farmers a day and eventhe Environment Agency recognises theenvironmental damage this causes.So we may, on occasion, give a little pat onthe back. We may also go into supermarketHQs to guide them in their endeavours, ifwe have time. But we’re under no illusion– the fact is they don’t want to changethe business model that gives rise to allthese problems, and that’s why we needgovernment to change it for them. That’snot so cosy but it’s much more effective.Vicki Hird campaigns on supermarketsat Friends of the Earth.vickih@foe.co.uk20 Summer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.orgwww.foodethicscouncil.org | Volume 2 Issue 2 | Summer 2007 21


upcoming events1st Jun ‘074th Jun ‘075th Jun ‘0711th Jun ‘0712th - 13th Jun ‘0713th - 15th Jun ‘0717th Jun ‘0718th - 20th Jun ‘0720th - 21st Jun ‘0725th - 26th Jun ‘0726th Jun ‘071st - 4th Jul ‘072nd - 5th Jul ‘079th - 11th Jul ‘0727th - 29th Jul ‘0712th - 18th Aug ‘0726th - 28th Aug ‘0731st Aug ‘071st - 2nd Sep ‘078th - 9th Sep ‘0713th - 15th Sep ‘0713th - 15th Sep ‘0717th - 19th Sep ‘0723rd - 24th Oct ‘0724th - 25th Oct ‘0731st Oct - 1st Nov ‘07Peter Singer on the Ethics of our FoodICA - Quote Food Ethics for discount on booking! | www.ica.org.uk | London, UKOn Target? Environmental Policy and the Climate Change BillTUC | www.tuc.org.uk | London, UKFood for the Future: the Peter Roberts Memorial LectureCompassion in World Farming | www.peter-roberts-lecture.org | London, UKThe Guardian Climate Change Summit 2007The Guardian | environment.guardian.co.uk/climatesummit | London, UK3rd Annual Obesity Europe ConferenceEpsilon Events | www.epsilonevents.com | Brussels, BelgiumWater for a Changing WorldUNESCO-IHE | www.unesco-ihe.org/news/symposium.htm | Delft, NetherlandsSustainable Distribution 2007IGD | www.igd.com | London, UK2nd International Symposium on Trace Elements and HealthHelsinki University | www.viikki.helsinki.fi/tracel2007 | Helsinki, FinlandInspiring Futures: Creating and Leading Sustainable EnterprisesImpact | www.impact-dtg.com | Windermere, UKClimate Change: Politics vs EconomicsChatham House | www.chathamhouse.org.uk | London, UKWater Framework Directive Conference: Progress and Implementing WFDCoastal Management for Sustainability (CMS) with CIWEM | www.coastms.co.uk | London, UKThe Royal Show 2007RASE | www.royalshow.org.uk | Warwickshire, UKEnvironmental and Rural Sustainability Through ICTEFITA & WCCA | www.efitaglasgow.org | Glasgow, ScotlandEU Emissions Trading 2007Environmental Finance | www.environmental-finance.com/envfin/conferen.htm | Brussels, BelgiumBadger Trust Annual ConferenceBadger Trust | www.badgertrust.org.uk | Derbyshire, UKWorld Water Week: Striving for Sustainability in a Changing WorldStockholm International Water Institute | www.worldwaterweek.org/index.asp | Stockholm, SwedenMarketing of Organic and Regional ValuesInternational Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) | www.ifoam.org/events | Schwabisch Hall, GermanyOrganic Food AwardsSoil Association | www.soilassociation.org/foodawards | Bristol, UKSoil Association Organic Food FestivalSoil Association | www.soilassociation.org/festival | Bristol, UKOxford Symposium on Food and Cookery: Food and MoralityOxford Symposium | http://www.oxfordsymposium.org.uk | Oxford, UKBioethics in the Real WorldEuropean Association of Centres of Medical Ethics | www.ethik.unizh.ch/biomed/eacme/index.html | Zurich, SwitzerlandSustainable Food Production and EthicsEurSafe | www.eursafe.org | Vienna, AustriaPathways to Legitimacy? The Future of Global and Regional GovernanceCentre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, University of Warwick | www.csgr.org | Warwick, UKHealthy Foods European SummitNew Hope Natural Media | www.healthyfoodssummit.com | London, UKEuropean Nano Food Forum 2007Epsilon Events | www.epsilonevents.com | Brussels, BelgiumSustainability: Creating the CultureSustainable Development Research Centre | www.sustainableresearch.com | Inverness, ScotlandSummer 2007 | Volume 2 Issue 2 | www.foodethicscouncil.org

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