A group of locals from Woodford Green have called on Sainsbury’s to reconsider its plan to drop the Fairtrade mark from its Red and Gold Label tea. Along with 150,000 others across the country, parishioners David Underwood and Peter Sherlock at St. Thomas of Canterbury got 183 parishioners and friends to sign the petition locally, which was then emailed to the local Sainsbury’s store manager in South Woodford and to the company’s CEO. Sainsbury’s in nearby Loughton had previously been very supportive of the parish’s Fairtrade efforts, for example by kindly donating Fairtrade bananas for Fairtrade fortnight.
The parish was confirmed as a Fairtrade parish in March 2009 and has since been a great proponent of Fairtrade. Upon hearing of the parish’s commitment to Fairtrade, the Waitrose branch in Buckhurst Hill very generously donated Fairtrade tea and coffee for refreshments served after Sunday masses in the parish – and has more recently renewed its support after recently restating its own commitment to the Fairtrade mark. Fairtrade tea and coffee are provided free of charge after services at the church and any donations received from parishioners are given to charity.
David Underwood, who led the parish’s campaign, said: “Tea can be powerful. Every Fairtrade cuppa makes a difference to the lives of tea farmers and workers in some of the world’s poorest communities. We believe Sainsbury’s are weakening this power by ditching the Fairtrade Mark from their own-brand tea and replacing it with a ‘Fairly Traded’ label. It’s very likely to mislead customers who may think ‘Fairly Traded’ is the same as independent Fairtrade certification. It’s not. And many of our parishioners and friends as customers of Sainsbury’s clearly wanted to let them know how they feel.”
The parishioners’ outcries were sparked by Sainsbury’s announcement in May that it was to replace Fairtrade certification with its own ‘Fairly Traded’ scheme for its Red and Gold Label tea.
While Sainsbury’s has said its scheme will mimic Fairtrade in providing a fair price for goods and an additional social premium, under ‘Fairly Traded’ farmers and producers lose direct control of the additional money raised from their products and decisions on funding are taken instead by a board established by Sainsbury’s in the UK.
Since the retailer made its announcement, over 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sainsbury’s to rethink its decision, with nearly 40 MPs backing a parliamentary motion calling on supermarkets to support Fairtrade in the face of Sainsbury’s move.
Fairtrade tea sales globally are worth an estimated £5 million in Fairtrade premiums for certified farmers and workers. British tea drinkers account for 80% of Fairtrade tea sales globally, with Sainsbury’s the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products.
Chris Driscoll, CAFOD’s representative in Woodford Green, said:
“We’re very thankful to the parishioners from St. Thomas of Canterbury for showing their local Sainsbury’s that they care about keeping Fairtrade. If this was parliament, then over 100,000 people signing a petition would be enough to secure a debate on what Sainsbury’s is doing.
“The Fairtrade mark is widely recognised, hugely trusted and we want to see it back on Sainsbury’s own-brand tea. Hopefully the acts of David and other parishioners will help Sainsbury’s come to that decision too!”