Let’s talk about ethical trade and human rights

Let’s talk about ethical trade and human rights – issues we know many of you care passionately about.

We’re a business that cares about people – be they members, colleagues, customers, suppliers or people in communities where our activities have an impact.

So, when it comes to ethical trade and human rights, this means taking care of the people in our business and our supply chain – treating them fairly and ensuring that they are protected and respected. We’re talking about issues like safe working conditions, living wages, the freedom of workers to come together and jointly negotiate pay, no forced labour, no child labour and no discrimination.

We protect people by co-operating, we work hard with our suppliers to make sure human rights are upheld and when they fall short we work together to sort things out.

We also know that by being open and honest we drive the best behaviours. So we’re committed to monitoring our performance and reporting our activities in a clear way, warts and all, so that you can have confidence in what we’re doing and that we’re striving for constant improvement.

Right now, I’m keen to hear your thoughts on issues involving people in the supply chains of our business. If you’re interested in other ethical issues, like how animals are treated or the environment, then hold your horses – there’ll be blog posts on these issues, coming soon.

But, if you want to talk about people, here’s a starter for ten…

  • Is this issue important to you?
  • If it is, why? And if it isn’t, why?
  • What would you want the Co-op to do?

Myself and the social team will be replying to the comments posted so look out for your reply and let’s keep talking.

Paul Gerrard
Group Ethics Director

Join the conversation! 55 Comments

  1. Fair trade is very important to me, that includes trade in the UK as well. Everyone should get a fair wage for what they produce.
    A lot of food has become so cheap, it is disposable, which is a disgrace. I really am at a loss as to how we change things around.
    Maybe by showing pictures and the words of the producers in your stores it might help people connect? Food production is taken for granted in these days of plenty.

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    • Thanks for your insight there Sandra. We’re trying hard to connect Co-op shoppers with the people behind the products they love, with on-packaging story telling as you suggest and other marketing efforts. But, there’s always more we can do. You mention Fairtrade is important to you, a programme that focusses on producers in the developing world. But, you also mention British producers, is there a label you look out for in-store that stands for British quality? Perhaps, the Red Tractor, Soil Association or RSPCA Freedom Food? ^Jordan

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      • Co-op fair trade items, Jordan’s cereals are about it these days now my local has shrunk in size and become a convenience store! They used to do a wholefood range and I was very upset when the Co-op farms were sold off. An opportunity in improving vegetable growing has been lost. The other names you mention are for meat/dairy and I have a vegan diet.
        It is this disconnection with how our food is produced that I cannot understand, probably because there is so much of it and it’s cheap!

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      • Sandra,

        thanks and helpful insight.

        You’ll appreciate that the Co-op has changed in the kind of businesses we operate and we are now focused on the convenience sector in terms of food in every community. You’ll appreciate that this does mean that we carry fewer lines than a superstore and bigger.

        However, in terms of vegan customers I think I’m right that we are one of only two retailers who label clearly our vegan products and meals and we do all we can to cater for all our customers but the challenge is a fair one.

        Best wishes

        Paul

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    • Sandra,

      thank you for taking the time to post.

      When all of are faced with those fellow human beings or those words who are working to produce the food we are buying then it makes us connect with them which then leaves us with a choice as to whether we then take a decision or not. Jordan has set out what we are doing to do this but this is part of a wider challenge for us about talking about what we do – both good and challenging – more proactively.

      Thanks again

      Paul

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  2. Ethical trade is very important to me and should apply to everyone in our supply chain, not just producers and colleagues who deal with customers.
    There have been a lot of stories in the press recently about working conditions in warehouses (not just living wage but unrealistic targets, lack of breaks, tracking being used to penalise workers, etc.), and this is exactly the type of thing we should be campaigning to improve as a co-op.
    But to be able to do this authentically we need to be sure that we are leading the way in the conditions in our own warehouses (for agency staff as well as co-op employees) and be transparent about how we do this so others can follow.
    Even if today we fall short (which wouldn’t be unexpected given we are still in the middle of the rebuild of the group) we should be able to define a vision of how workers should be treated which is more ethical and aligns with co-op values. We shouldn’t hide behind the excuse of doing what everyone else does, as the economic and political virtues of markets go wanting when markets are broken.

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    • Thanks very much for sharing this with us Stephen ^Sophie

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    • Stephen,

      thanks for posting and you raise an important issue.

      I think through Fairtrade and other initiatives we are all aware more of the challenges producers face but as you rightly say in this world of zero-hour contracts we must not forget those throughout our supply chain. Our ambition is for all those in our supply chain.

      I think the other point you make on transparency is critical. We are an organisation whose purpose is to ‘champion a better way of doing business for you and your community’ and in this post-truth world we must stand for, as co-operatives always have, honesty and frankness because not only is it the right thing to do but because only those who are honest are truly credible can campaign effectively. Our reports over the years have ben just that and I can guarantee you they will continue to be so.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  3. Ethical trade is important to me. It is important that people are aware of the issues surrounding un-ethical trade and violation of human rights.
    I personally believe that we are all equal regardless of our race, nationality, social or financial background, a very important part of making sure we are all being treated as equal is our human rights, without them we risk being exploited. It is sad to think that not every country believes in human rights and is even more disheartening that in recent years the UK- so it seems- have under handedly relaxed the attitude of fair working hours, unfair wages, workers expectations and the quality of work being produced, all the while companies expecting better products, higher profits and extreme loyalty from their staff. Can we really expect such a selfish attitude to continue?
    One way to ensure these issues are resolved is by making people aware, I feel that currently only the people whom are already aware of ethical trade and human rights issues from other sources are aware of The Co-op’s involvement and commitment to fair trade, its important that The Co-op continue to find ways to draw more peoples attention to these issues and why it is important that we know where our food comes from and why we should be buying fair trade products. In a world of hugely competitive markets The Co-op has become in a way just another grocery shop seen as no different to others such as Tesco express, Londis and Spar to name a few, those who know the difference between The Co-op and these other stores I feel are a minority to those who do not. Therefore in my view you need to remind people what a co-op is and what a co-op does. Perhaps a social media campaign could help here, social media currently reaches an extremely wide and diverse audience at this time and full advantage should be taken of it. Perhaps invest in your staff to train them to be able to hold local information days where they can talk to their customers about these issues, I wonder if I walked into my local Co-op now and asked a staff member why I should be buying the chocolate with fair trade written on rather than the dairy milk, they would know what to answer?
    Food for thought hey…

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    • Thanks for your views Leoni! :o) ^SB

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    • Leonie,

      thanks for this and, reading between the lines, it feels to me that you are a real advocate of the Co-op and we’re grateful for that.

      I do think there is more we can do to demonstrate both what we do – and a criticism I regularly of us is that we don’t tell people loudly enough what we do – of but in doing that try to help people understand what the realities are behind the things they buy. This is something we are going to change and this series of blogs is the beginning of us being

      More broadly than this topic – humans in our supply chains – I agree 100% with you that we need to explain better what a co-operative is and why it is, as our purpose says, ‘a better way of doing business for you and your community.’ You’ll be hearing a lot in the coming months as we encourage others to join our Co-op about the Co-op Way. If you’ve not seen the Shane Meadows film – https://blog.co-operative.coop/2017/01/17/watch-shane-meadows-new-co-op-film/ – then please do watch it and every single person in that film is a real person, not an actor, and has benefitted from the Co-op Way and our unique 5% for you and 1% for your community membership offer.

      I get a sense you’re behind us so we need to live up to your and other members expectations to show we’re different – and what we do on human rights is one example – and why its a better way.

      Thanks again for posting and please keep watching as I really believe we’re going to start showing what being Co-op means.

      Paul

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  4. Test

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  5. I have been involved in organic farming & horticulture for over 30 years, including campaigning with the Soil Association, teaching clients about composting & organics, boycotting businesses that use dangerous chemicals such as Roundup, and much more.
    I joined the Co-op many years ago, having joined the bank in the ’90s specifically for its claims to be ethical. I watched in dismay as the Co-op Group was slowly but surely dismantled from within by the likes of millionaire Peter Marks and his corrupted board, bringing Paul Flowers into the bank (seriously damaging the bank’s credibility), then using hedge funds, Citibank & Morgan Chase to help the Britannia buyout, and ending up with a huge mess, sell-off, redundancies and finally separation from the Group. I dismayed as i watched the Co-op Group farms sold off to Capita, one of the worst decisions the Group could make. The Co-op used to be the UK’s biggest farmer, and had amazing potential to switch to organics and actual sustainable practices, and to become a leading force for positive change in this country. I had repeatedly sought to alert members to what i could see was going on but all i got was told to shut up and banned from further comments.
    During all that time i had also sought to challenge the Co-op’s wide range of totally unethical products, sale of Cameroon & Ivory Coast child-slavery Cacao products from Mars, Cadbury’s, Nestle, etc, sale of Coca Cola (subject to international boycotts for its total lack of any ethics, abuse of workers, major pollution of the environment, etc), sale of other chemicalised, refined, and proven harmful, products, but was told that the Co-op sold such rubbish because they had to compete with the other supermarkets and would lose money if they didn’t. When i go into Co-op stores now, i can still see much of the same toxic rubbish for sale, including child-slavery products alongside the allegedly “Fairtrade” ones. Even now there are many criticisms of Co-op stores selling the bigoted ‘newspapers’ and many products from unethical, unsustainable, polluting & GMO/Monsanto-supporting multinational corporations.
    As someone working in organic horticulture, i simply cannot ignore such flagrant breaches of ethics. I know very well what is sustainable & what is not, having trained in Permaculture & organics for so long. I choose to shop at local whole food & organic shops that are 100% ethical & environmentally conscious, and occasionally venture into Waitrose (which has lots of “Fairtrade” & organic products, plus a policy of support for farmers using natural methods, less chemical input etc), LIDL & Aldi (both demonstrating increasing amounts of support for organics & “Fairtrade” while paying their workers well-above the minimum wage), and Morrisons (the 1st UK supermarket to give its waste food to homeless & food banks), and now only sometimes use the Co-op. This is unlikely to change while i see Coca Cola, Mars products, Nestle products and other multinational corporate rubbish still for sale on Co-op shelves! I know others who feel the same way.
    The Co-op missed a ‘golden opportunity’ to use their own farms to grow their own extensive range of organic products, and even sell to other companies. They also missed the opportunity to grow licensed Hemp for its strong fibres, its high grade fuel oils (for all Co-op fleet vehicles), its paper pulp, its plastics (some BMW dashboards are made from Hemp fibre & plastic), its durability & land-reclaiming abilities, its potential to create medicines (such as CBD). But instead it allowed a group of corrupt millionaires to asset-strip, sell-off, & essentially destroy, what the members had spent decades building up.
    This ‘consultation’ therefore, is another opportunity to actually listen and act, to stop paying executives 6-figure incomes while paying the rest low wages (not ‘co-operative’ at all), to dump the ranges of unethical & unsustainable products, to stop dealing with anymore multinational corporations (especially known polluters), to become actually ‘ethical’ & ‘sustainable’ at last (instead of making claims that were somewhat ambiguous or simply false). I welcome any attempts by newer management to turnaround what has been a disaster for the Co-operative movement and for the Co-operative Group and its members. I will wait until i see the sort of changes i hope for before i give my full support again. I’m sorry for my ‘distance’, i truly am, and i truly hope to see real positive changes happening this year and beyond!

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    • Simon,

      thanks for your post and the clear passion you have.

      This blog is specifically about human rights in the products we sell so I’m not going to go into the problems we had four years ago nor the decisions we took then to save our co-op. However, I would say that I don’t recognise the picture of the Co-op that you paint. So, as just one example, it is unarguable that the Co-op led the introduction of Fairtrade in mainstream retailing from the mid-1990s and even now when we have something like 6% of the food market in the UK we still sell more than double that proportion of the Fairtrade products sold in the UK; we continue to champion Fairtrade and are recognised as doing so.

      The key for us is that we recognise where we have real strengths and where we have more to do – doing that in a transparent and open way is what we have always done since we were founded 144 years ago and we’ll continue to do that. Critically, we’ll do this by engaging with and listening to our members because being member-owned is at the heart of our difference.

      I understand you’ll want to wait and see – that’s fair enough. However, I wonder what you think about the ground breaking membership offer we launched in September 2016 which sees us supporting 1,000s of community groups chosen by our members, or the partnership with the British Red Cross to tackle loneliness in our communities we announced in December 2016? These are examples of us building on our unique co-operative values and principles and our heritage over 17 decades to make change. or what you’ll think of the .

      We have a great history to live up to and we set ourselves high standards with no-one more critical of us than ourselves. Thanks for your posts and the passion you have – I hope you’ll stay engaged and perhaps come back and see what we now do and what more we’ll do.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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      • You deleted my reply to your reply Paul! That was NOT “co-operative” or “ethical” was it?
        In my reply i posted about this list of BOYCOTTED companies & products, including a huge number that the Co-operative Group profits from!
        http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/boycottslist.aspx
        Just a quick scan of the list and anyone can see how the Co-operative Group may pretend to be “ethical” but actually are not! They are a corporate model, run by a corporate executive. Like other corporations, they don’t like being criticised!
        The FACT that the Co-op stores sell so much UNETHICAL CRAP from boycotted companies such as Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, Mars, Nestle, Ben & Jerry’s, Cadbury’s, Tate & Lyle, Unilever, and support farmers who support the UNSCIENTIFIC cull of Badgers in Somerset & Gloucestershire!
        The FACT that the Co-operative Group is ignoring calls for products that have been sprayed with Roundup/Glyphosate to be banned, directly because Roundup is clearly implicated in Autism & Cancer!
        The FACT that various West African states that supply Cacao to companies such as Mars, Nestle & Cadbury’s have CHILD SLAVERY in their TOTALLY UNETHICAL production!
        How much UNETHICAL profit is acceptable to the Co-operative Group?

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      • Simon,

        I’ve read your post; tree points:

        * I haven’t deleted your post – don’t have functionality, couldn’t if I did and wouldn’t want to anyway;

        * this is a blog about human rights but we are running blogs on the environment and agriculture so please join in there

        * thirdly, a co-operative is legally a very different business from a plc or private equity not least because it is owned by its members – which is why we are asking our members to help shape what we do hence this blog

        Finally, I know we don’t get everything right and am sure, perhaps in the areas you suggest, we can do better. But do I think the Co-op who pioneered the 8 hour working day in the 1900s, Fairtrade in the 1990s and just yesterday supporting victims of modern slavery in a way that the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner described as the model for other companies – see this blog https://blog.coop.co.uk/2017/03/01/providing-a-brighter-future-for-uk-victims-of-modern-slavery/ – is ethical? Yes I do and am proud of what we have achieved and of our determination to do more.

        Paul

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      • When the Co-op stop selling ANY Nestle products, directly because Nestle is an international CRIMINAL corporation that is the subject of multiple boycotts for its total lack of any ethics and for its stances on a wide range of issues, then Nestle will collapse and be forced to stop lying, cheating, polluting, bribing, selling slave trade Cacao products, selling stolen spring water, etc. The question about whether the Co-op Group has any “ethical” policies at all will be answered by the removal of Nestle products from ALL Co-op stores!
        http://wakingtimesmedia.com/processed-food-dying-nestle-takes-worst-hit-20-years-public-opinion-shifts/

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  6. I expect many people hope that the products and service we enjoy have not resulted in harm or misery to others. I appreciate that Co-op is a vocal supporter of Ethical Trading Initiative and pioneer & leader of Fairtrade. The information is accessible on the Food website and trumpeted periodically via social media.

    I hope that as the Food business transforms and increases its portion of own-label products over famous brands the Co-op difference will become clearer and will influence the convenience customers who do not shop there for its ethical credentials.

    Less clear is how the Electrical business is guided by these values. In an trade plagued by stories of worker mistreatment, anti-union policies and issues around sourcing minerals from areas of conflict, there is no visible indication of what part Electrical is doing to handle these issues. The revamp of the Electrical business could be an opportunity to communicate its thinking and clearly differentiate itself from competitors.

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    • Thanks for sending us your feedback Simon. We’ll keep you updated with our developments. ^Sophie

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    • Gary,

      thanks for the post which is really thought-provoking.

      Yours is fair challenge and I would say that what we are doing is using the great experience we have developed over many years in our Food business as the template for all our different businesses including electrical. The challenge for us is that our businesses are different in what they sell – services as well as products – and the extent to which we are selling Co-op branded products or not. However, our destination regardless of the business is the same – the highest standards for those involved in the supply chains which deliver our business.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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      • Simon,

        as I said we don’t get everything right but we have plenty we do and an ambition to do better.

        Paul

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  7. Palm oil and the use of palm oil from endangered rainforest regions is a major factor in accelerating climate change and destroying highly valuable ecosystems and wildlife, including Orangutans and Tigers. Making sure that Palm oil is from sustainable and non destructive sources is very important to all of us on this Earth Planet ball in space thing we all call home.

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    • You’re right, David. so, you may be glad to hear 100% of the Palm Oil used in Co-op products is sustainable, here’s more https://blog.co-operative.coop/2016/09/22/palm-oil-update/ ^Jordan

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      • ALL Palm Oil production is created after forests have been cleared. There are NO sustainably-created Palm Oil plantations, whether they are managed without dangerous chemicals and abuse of workers or not!
        YOU, the Co-operative Group had an amazing opportunity to grow your own fuel and high grade oils from the legal farming of Hemp, on your own farms, but because of rotten management & a corrupt executive, and the sale of the farms to the corporate criminals in Capita, you can’t do that anymore! Instead you advocate & support the cutting down of yet more forests for your foreign Palm Oil, at HUGE cost to the environment & to nature, because Palm Oil plantations do NOT support diversity and DESTROY the habitats of Orangutans!

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      • SImon,

        thanks for the post. The WWF view is that RSPO is worth supporting though so we will be guided by international standards:

        http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/palm_oil/what_wwf_is_doing/certified_sustainable_palm_oil

        Best wishes

        Paul

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    • David,

      thanks for the post.

      As Jordan says, 100% of palm oil used in Co-op products are sustainable and you’re right to highlight its importance. In terms of resource use issues like sustainable timber, water and fish stocks are also important and I wondered if you had a view on any of these as well?

      Best wishes

      Paul

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      • I too am puzzled as to why, if your own label product is 100% sustainable palm oil, why this isn’t mentioned on your packaging. In fact I’d be trumpeting it from the roof tops as it’d really place the CO-OP in a leading position for those of us who are trying to avoid non-sustainable.

        That said, I am not clear that there is such a thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil and the arguments about higher yields being more sustainable in terms of yield/hectare are bogus when those hectares are cleared prime natural ecosystems…. I shall follow the link to WWF and see what they have to say about it all.

        Matt

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    • Unfortunately, for the big corporate groups (such as the Co-op Group) the story about Palm Oil is NOT “sustainable” OR “ethical”! EVERY Palm Oil plantation is grown where forest used to be, destroying the natural environment and the life in it. Then the very UNSUSTAINABLE Palm Oil plantations are managed in such a way that they qualify for the claim “sustainably managed” and companies (such as the Co-op Group) claim that they have “ethical” policies as a result! Even the claims of “organic Palm Oil” are dubious because the conversion periods have been diminished to only 2 years in many countries!
      But far more serious is the news that Palm Oil becomes a carcinogen when heated over 200 degrees. That will mean that many baked products are toxic to the human body and it appears that this has been known about for some time!
      https://qz.com/885042/nutella-is-pulled-from-some-supermarket-stores-in-italy-after-a-food-safety-report-linked-palm-oil-to-cancer/
      This is not the case with Coconut Oil which can be heated to 2000 degrees and still retain its valuable properties!
      When the Co-op stopped using Sunflower Oil for its oatcakes and switched to Palm Oil, i stopped buying them and shifted to the Waitrose versions which are still made with Sunflower Oil.
      As has been the case for many years, the Co-op Group executive and management are ignoring any criticisms and keep pretending that if they ignore something it will go away by itself. Unfortunately for the Co-op Group, when they ignore their members the members go away and recommend to others to do the same. Clearly what the Co-op Group management fail to grasp is that by focusing upon their claims of “ethical” while ignoring all their obviously UNETHICAL practices, and while continuing to claim that they care about the opinions of members, the Co-op Group are looking more and more ‘corporate’ and less and less ‘co-operative’!

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  8. This is a HUGE subject, one that is not exclusive of other ethical issues. For example, the education of a palm oil farmer can have a knock on effect on their decision to develop a sustainable approach and therefore, rolling the issue of people into the issue of environment.

    As a geographer, scientist and nature lover, many issues are important when parting with my cash:

    – Fair Trade
    – Animal Welfare
    – The Environment
    – Organic
    – Supporting Local Production

    Shopping is a bloody nightmare! It sounds like the Co-Op is on the right track here. I must say I am delighted to hear that they are using sustainable palm oil.

    Thank you for your time Paul, and good luck!

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    • Luke,

      thanks for the post and for, what I sense, is your support.

      You’re right its difficult to separate these issues and the example you give is a good one. What we’ve tried to do in separating them is to give us a chance of understanding them individually because trying to do them all at once would be overwhelming. However, the thing for us will be putting them back together when we’ve done them individually.

      The five areas you highlight come out consistently when we speak to our members and our customers who are not members about the ethical considerations they have in mind. Our challenge is to ensure that when people see our iconic cloverleaf logo they know that the kind of issues you highlight are safe.

      We’re getting there, I truly believe we are but please keep an eye on these blogs as they’ll be others you may be interested in and you can keep or feet to the fire.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  9. 1. The Co-op does a lot already, and I often find when I ask about whether you have considered an ethical angle you have. So top item would be being increasingly visible about your positive stories (having been thorough in checking out no one can dig holes in them legitimately). Good strides have been made in this. More in store would be great. Not only does this encourage people to purchase more ethically, it makes them question places that don’t tell such stories, so could improve product ethics elsewhere.
    2. Fair trade and free range have both come under a lot of question recently. In some cases they can be watered down and even no better than non-certified products. Co-op seems to have stronger fair trade integrity than most, but being clear about what you really mean by it would help. As for free range, it is so rare that it is bearable (though still short) life for a laying hen, that maybe a rethink on this one that is Co-op inspired would be good.
    3. There are the human rights to food and clean water. Agriculture for western markets impacts these hugely in developing countries. Any way we can keep tabs on this particularly for high land-use and high water-use products such as even British beef and milk (via imported animal feed) or cotton for example. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_protein_per_unit_area_of_land. With water usage it’s most relevant whether that food product is produced somewhere with plenty of water or water scarcity.
    3b. Food for local homeless and those struggling to feed their families.
    4. Human trafficking and illegal wage levels. I imagine Co-op is pretty careful not to get this in it’s supply chain. It is not an uncommon issue in agriculture.
    For me as a purchaser it’s hard to keep track of all the products I should avoid/favour without handy reminders on products and in store, or even better a shop that never gets involved with x, y & z. An on-line reliable and fairly comprehensive source of info for people researching ethics in food would be good. Categorisation would be handy. But the in store stuff is most important. I also would like to know that you enforce the ethics strictly, and avoid the pitfalls some other brands might make. It’s a great thing to do, particularly when there are scare stories that make people lose faith in labeling such as fairtrade.

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  10. Matt and Sandra (and others) make a brilliant point: if you provide something as fantastic as products only containing sustainable palm oil, shout about it! More importantly, make it easy for us to find and buy.

    I would love to see a consistent and clear key on all products:
    Fairtrade (tick)
    Organic (no tick)
    Sustainably sourced (tick)
    Locally sourced (tick)
    etc.

    No getting by on formalities – “contains 20% organic fruit…”
    No getting around it with ludicrous alternative names – http://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/names-for-palm-oil.html

    Just clear and honest.

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    • There is no “sustainable Palm Oil”. It’s an oxymoron!
      ALL Palm Oil production is created after forests have been cleared. There are NO sustainably-created Palm Oil plantations, whether they are managed without dangerous chemicals and abuse of workers or not!
      The Co-operative Group had an amazing opportunity to grow their own fuel and high grade oils from the legal farming of Hemp (plus Sunflower and other oil crops), on their own farms, but because of rotten management & a corrupt executive, and the sale of the farms to the corporate criminals in Capita, they can’t do that anymore!
      Instead, they advocate & support the cutting down of yet more forests for their foreign Palm Oil, at HUGE cost to the environment & to nature, because Palm Oil plantations do NOT support diversity and DESTROY the habitats of Orangutans!

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    • Sophie and Matt,

      thanks – I think we need to talk about what we do and do it openly and honestly; indeed, if you read our Co-op Way Report 2015 it is very transparent, sometimes uncomfortably so and because it is independently audited it has a robustness. I think this transparency come through in our product labelling but a good and constant challenge.

      Thanks

      Paul

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  11. I think the Co-Op does a great job in this area by doing things like promoting Fairtrade, vetting supply chains, etc. I’m confident that anything I buy from the Co-Op has been sourced ethically.

    That being said, I don’t think enough is done to promote this, which is a shame as it’s the USP after all! Many people don’t have any idea of the ethical side of the Co-Op and just see it as another (more expensive) convenience store. I think most people would gladly pay a little bit more for their food if they knew it was sourced in an ethical way and the advantages this brings.

    I recently bought some Co-Op Colombian coffee and the packing had a little paragraph on the back about where the product had come from and how Fairtrade benefits the people producing the coffee. I thought this was really great actually and definitely makes me want to buy Co-Op over other brands.

    If more people are aware of the ethical issues, then this should increase demand for ethically sourced products as a whole and lead change in the wider industry as well.

    In short, the Co-Op should get on it’s soap box a bit more about these sorts of issues and make people feel good about spending a little bit more for an ethical product.

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  12. I think it’s important that the Co-op should be a leader in the UK retail sector in terms of pay and working conditions, championing collective bargaining and the benefits of trade union membership. I’ve seen comments online from Co-op staff who feel that working conditions are not always good enough in all parts of the business – for example, understaffing in stores, subcontracting of logistics and security to third party firms. As a customer and member, this concerns me. I want the staff of my local Co-op store and across the business to have great jobs and to be paid and treated well. I know the Co-op already reports on employee satisfaction and reviews pay and conditions. More could be done in terms of explaining the benefits of union membership to staff (particularly young employees) at induction and via other regular communication channels, the importance of collective bargaining, facility time for trade union reps etc. I understand the pressures the Co-op has faced in recent years, and why dividend was suspended but staff pay and welfare must not suffer – after all it is the Co-op staff who have rebuilt our Co-op and will be at the forefront of its success in future. Their importance must not be underestimated.

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    • Alex,

      thanks.

      I couldn’t agree more that colleagues up and down the country in our stores, funeral care homes and our support centre are what makes the Co-op what it is. What is critical is that we listen to colleagues and respond wherever we can – that is continuous and never stops.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  13. I am working on an MSc in Development Management and a recent assignment was focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I used the Co-op as an example and as part of my research I accessed a number of the Co-op’s corporate reports such as the Sustainability Report. It was good to see that the Co-op works with suppliers to rectify things when human rights/labour rights issues are identified (unlike some other supply chain codes of practice in which the company just walks away and finds a different supplier). It was also good to note that there was monitoring of follow-up actions. Does the Co-op produce any case study materials on this aspect of its work with supply chains, for example to demonstrate that there have been quantifiable improvements to a particular group’s working conditions? Respect for human rights and ethical, sustainable trade are core values in the Co-op’s corporate reporting and it would be great to have more in-depth information available on the website, detailing successes and challenges.

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    • Jane,

      there is a good bit in our Co-op Way Report 2015 and there will be more in our Modern Slavery Statement (to be published in May 2017) and our 2016 Co-op Way Report (to be published in April 2017).

      If you want to discuss then get in touch with me direct – through twitter (@paulgerrard1971) perhaps?

      Paul

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  14. I’ve changed my shopping habits so that I can access fair trade and ethical food. I’ve set up a food group and we order through ‘essential trading’. Whilst I get most of my food from them and veg from Riverford I have to top up at the supermarkets with the things I can’t get. I use the Coop frequently but our store is just a small garage one. I feel saddened and frustrated that I can’t just walk into any shop and buy fairtrade, ethical produce. Surely it should be the other way round? That I should have to go out of my way to buy food that causes harm and suffering to others?
    The Coop can lead on this, I hope to live in a time where humans are treated with the humanity that we are supposed to possess.

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    • Thanks for the post.

      I spoke at a conference yesterday and Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, commented that it shouldn’t be seen as a feat for companies to treat fellow human beings well in their supply chains, it should be a given.

      As you’ll know we pioneered Fairtrade back in the 1990s and continue to be the leader in Fairtrade retailing. Fairtrade is just one part of our response on human rights and you may be interested in what we announced yesterday to help victims of modern slavery become survivors of modern slavery:

      https://blog.coop.co.uk/2017/03/01/providing-a-brighter-future-for-uk-victims-of-modern-slavery/

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  15. I agree with the comments made by ‘Inspirational Mama Blog’, Fair trade should be the rule not the exception in stores. I also agree with Luke above about his comments on the visual display of positive product characterisitcs and these been highly accessibly in boxes.
    Another aspect of ‘ethical’ trade could in fact be the reduction of food miles. What would be nice is if Co-op introduced or expanded ‘Local’ ranges of food whereby the product is certified as being from within the region or county you are in to reduce food miles. I appreciate that as regions often specialise in certain produce this is not easy but any progress that could be made on Fruit and Veg etc would be nice. A clear labelling system that is uniform on products is essential to any ethical upscaling of products and custome awareness. Finally, packaging itself needs to start becoming sustainable, for example I have heard of certain vegetable-based inks, and bio-plastics. More use of these eco-alternative packaging materials would be great. And well done on the palm oil front, if I were you, I’d start shouting about it on store displays and posters. Thanks for your time.

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    • Mark,

      thanks for the post.

      Locally produce is critically important from both an environmental but also community perspective. We have run trials – which are now a core part of our business – on this in Yorkshire which we are extending across our stores; just recently we have signed a partnership with a series of local breweries to supply our stores.

      On labelling we have been at the forefront on this but there remains an issue which, I think, will need a broader coalition to resolve but we can provide leadership. Finally, the packaging point is very well made and we are already leading the way at ensuring our food packaging is recyclable because at present the rates across the retail sector are really poor.

      Best wishes and thanks for taking the time to contribute

      Paul

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  16. A big boost to domestic and international ethical trade would be to purchase from existing co-operatives.

    As an example, a community shop local to me sells far more of Suma (a large UK workers’ co-operative) goods than the Co-op Group.

    Consumers that want to support the co-operative economy find it difficult in our stores. Typically, we have Co-op branded goods which are not produced by other co-ops and goods of big corporations.

    We need to expand the range of other co-operative produced goods and promote them as part of supporting a fair economy and sustainable ethics. Perhaps they can be included in the 5% scheme or be given a tariff and mark of their own.

    It’s also disappointing to see the Co-op group allow non-co-operatives/non-ethical focused businesses using stores to promote their services. Often there are co-operative/ethical alternatives which we should seek to partner with.

    If we don’t promote other co-ops then, as the largest co-op in the UK by far, ethics will be much harder to sustain and promote.

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    • David,

      thanks and you make a really good point.

      You’ll appreciate that much of our Fairtrade is sourced from co-operatives – just this week we heard from one of our cocoa farmers who runs the biggest co-operative in the sector. However, I think we have opportunities closer to home.

      Of course co-operation among co-operatives is a key principle of the co-operative movement and by growing the sector we can demonstrate that co-operation is a better business model.

      Best wishes

      Paul

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  17. Meet up and speak up about the things that matter to you – Bath

    We want to hear from our members about their views on everything from human rights, global warming and fairtrade to salt in food, healthy eating, animal welfare and modern farming. Paul Gerard, Our Policy Director is hitting the road over the next few weeks to hear first hand from members about the issues you think the Co-op should be standing up for. Through this two hour informal discussion session Paul hopes to get a better understanding of how you expect your Co-op to be addressing some of the most important issues facing us today. If you’re interested book your place now. They are free but allocated on a first come, first served basis. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available. Come along and add your views, or just listen to what other members have to say. You need to be a member to be able to book to attend but you can bring along a friend or colleague and they don’t have to be a member.

    Date / Time: 09/03/2017 – 18:00
    Contact Email: membership.services@coop.co.uk
    Venue Address: Manvers Street Baptist Church
    Visit coop.co.uk/events to book your place – please share with friends!

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    • Julie,

      thanks for the plug and I hope those in and around Bath come along. There are other dates in Brighton, Belfast, Glasgow, Swansea and Manchester so please check the dates out on the members website and book on.

      Paul

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  18. It’s great that members are getting a chance to engage with ethical policy like this. I wish that the nearest discussion wasn’t 53miles from Leeds.

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    • Kat,

      fair point and what I would say is that this isn’t a one-off and we’ll be repeating the town hall events continually looking to get to the right places – so point taken!

      In the meantime, love to hear your views digitally?

      Paul

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  19. Where my food is sourced from is important for myself. I recently bought avocados from the Co-op and noticed that the labelling indicated that they were sourced from Israel. I’d understood that the EU had introduced measures that meant that it would be mandatory for any fruit and veg sourced from settlements to indicate that is the case. I’m not advocating any position in this regard, other than to hear from the Co-op whether this is correct or not and, if not, what the Co-op’s policy on this matter is in any event.

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