On June 21st Oxfam launched its new campaign to end human suffering and poverty in supermarket supply chains. Oxfam’s new research shows that often the people who produce the food we buy are themselves going hungry. For example, more than nine out of ten grape workers in South Africa and seafood processors in Thailand surveyed by Oxfam- most of whom were women – said they hadn’t had enough to eat at least once in the previous month.

Supermarkets practices can play a huge role in fixing this problem. We scored 6 UK supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s, Lidl and Aldi – based on their publicly available policies, practices and commitments that affect workers and farmers. Tesco scores the most with 23% while Aldi scores a mere 1%. There is a big difference between the supermarket scores but all of them have lots of room for improvement.

 

How have the supermarkets responded?

Hundreds of you have written to your supermarket to ask them what they are doing to end human suffering and poverty in their supply chains. We’ve heard from you about the responses that you have received from Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. These responses acknowledge the campaign but none go far enough in terms of telling customers how the supermarket will be tackling the problems our campaign highlights. We’ve heard from those of you who wrote to Asda and Morrison’s that they are yet to reply to your enquiries.

Since the campaign launched, the supermarkets have responded publicly and we have met with representatives from all 6 of them. We heard that for supermarkets to take action to help end human suffering behind the food they sell, they need to hear this message first and foremost from their customers.

How can you continue the conversation with supermarkets?

If you’ve already written a letter to your supermarket, thank you! If you haven’t then take action now. For those that have received a reply and are wondering what to do, the short answer is to keep the conversation going. It may feel a bit daunting but remember the ultimate objective – to end human suffering and poverty in supermarket supply chains. Oxfam can’t do that alone. Supermarkets need to feel the pressure from you, their valued customers. Here’s a few
pointers:

  1. Remind them why you care about this. It’s your personal motivation that will shine through. You don’t need to be an expert on these issues
  2. Ask them how they are going to implement Oxfam’s recommendations and by when
  3. Ask them for publicly available links to any policies, practices or statements that they refer to. The public bit is key for accountability, and this is why Oxfam only awards a score for information that is publicly available.
  4. Ask them what they are doing to protect workers and farmers in all their supply chains, not just the select examples they may give you
  5. Focus it on food as opposed to other items they might sell such as clothes

What’s happening elsewhere in the world?

You are part of an international campaign. The campaign has launched in Thailand, Indonesia, the USA, Germany and the Netherlands. Highlights so far include Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual advisor endorsing the campaign in the USA and taking the campaign on tour with famous German rock band Die Toten Hosen. Look out for the launch of our #DearSupermarket campaign in Thailand in a few weeks’ time.

Thank you for keeping up the pressure on supermarkets!

By Francesca Carnibella, Food & Climate Campaign Manager

 

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