Sainsbury’s mounts lobbying offensive following Fairtrade furore
The supermarket giant has approached critical MPs.
Lobbyists from Sainsbury’s are set to meet MPs in a bid to diffuse a damaging row over its decision to drop Fairtrade tea.
The supermarket giant has been criticised by MPs, shareholders and campaign groups for dropping the ethical mark for its own label tea and badging it “fairly traded” instead.
A Commons Early Day Motion calling on supermarkets to support the Fairtrade ethical mark has been signed by more than 40 MPs. A number of Written Parliamentary Questions have also been tabled by Labour MPs Catherine McKinnell and Gareth Thomas try to establish what pressure - if any - the Government is putting on Sainsbury’s.
Now it has emerged that lobbyists from Sainsbury’s have approached MPs including McKinnell as a result of the backlash in Westminster.
McKinnell - who is one of the sponsors of the Commons motion – told The House magazine: "I care really passionately about the positive impact that the UK – including British business and consumers – can have on the lives of people in developing countries. I am seriously concerned that UK supermarkets moving away from Fairtrade will undermine the scheme and all of the progress that has been made over the last 25 years."
Speaking earlier this week, the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne added: "Sainsbury’s have also been in touch with me today as a result of the EDM and the press coverage it has received, and I am meeting with them early next week to share my serious concerns."
Another Labour MP, Tracy Brabin, has written to Sainsbury's CEO Mike Coupe to express concern about Fairtrade being undermined.
"To abandon this trusted accreditation and to replace it with an in-house alternative would be a mistake. This is because it would create differences in the standards we expect from sustainably and ethically resourced products and this will erode trust," she stated.
A series of shareholders and campaign groups criticised the supermarket group for dropping Fairtrade at its annual meeting in London and consumers are also becoming increasingly vocal about the issue.
The Sainsburys lobbying offensives comes as McDonalds public affairs chief Richard Casofsky is set to join as head of public affairs next month. The head of public affairs role is currently held on an interim basis by Damien Drumm following the recent departure of Michael Salter-Church.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “Sainsbury’s would welcome the opportunity to take MPs through all the benefits that our pilot will bring beyond what the current Fairtrade model offers. We are very confident that our pilot project will deliver more funding to farmers in Africa than they receive through Fairtrade as well as greater levels of support.”