UK supermarkets making slow progress to end human suffering in global supply chains

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Six of the UK’s biggest supermarkets have made slow progress in the last year to remove human suffering from their global food supply chains, according to new research published today by Oxfam.

The supermarket scorecard, which is in its second year, is part of Oxfam’s global campaign to improve the lives of the millions of people around the world producing food for supermarkets who are trapped in poverty and face brutal working conditions.

Oxfam assessed the six supermarkets’ publicly disclosed policies and practices against internationally recognised indicators of good practice in four key areas: transparency including with consumers about where food comes from, conditions for workers, conditions for small-scale farmers and tackling discrimination against women. A key aim of the campaign is that supermarkets ensure that a larger share of what consumers spend on food reaches the people who produce it – and are honest about it.

Tesco topped the scorecard for the second year running, increasing its lead over second-placed Sainsbury’s and third-placed Asda.  Last year’s lowest placed company, Aldi – which was the focus of an Oxfam campaign supported by Aldi customers – is now fourth followed by Morrisons, leaving Lidl trailing by some margin.

Rachel Wilshaw, Oxfam’s Ethical Trade Manager, said “Supermarkets have the power to be a force for good in ending suffering and abuse so it’s encouraging that all six UK supermarkets have made improvements over the last year. But it is clear they are still falling a long way short of what needs to be done to ensure that the people who produce our food are properly rewarded and protected.

“It is especially concerning that Morrisons and Lidl continue to receive no score for ensuring that women workers are treated fairly and equally. More targeted measures are needed to tackle exploitation of women workers as this remains a major weakness across all of the supermarket supply chains.”

Peter McAllister, Ethical Trade Initiative’s Executive Director, said “Supermarkets in the UK have a big influence on working conditions in their supply chain. While it is good to see progress, the highest score shows that there remains a long way to go while some have made virtually no improvement, which is clearly unacceptable. This is not a matter of cost, but of values and leadership, so we hope that this public scrutiny will continue to encourage progress.”


Notes to editors

  1. The scorecard is based on assessment of a company’s performance against 93 indicators. Where a company receives an assessment of ‘yes’ for an indicator it will score a single point or where a policy applies only to a subsidiary company, a partial score is given.

The overall score is calculated based on the total number of points the company has achieved across the four themes out of a total of 93 points, expressed as a percentage. If a supermarket claims to have made a commitment but it is not public, they do not receive a score for it in the scorecard. This is to drive greater corporate transparency so that the supermarkets’ performance can be seen by everyone.

Supermarket                    June 2019      June 2018
Tesco                                38%                 23%
Sainsbury’s                        27%                18%
Asda                                  23%                 17%
Aldi                                    19%                 1%
Morrisons                          16%                 5%
Lidl                                    9 %                  5%

The methodology for the scorecard can be found here

  1. The Behind the Barcodes campaign was launched in June 2018 with a global report highlighting the human suffering behind supermarket food. The report found that, across 12 common food products, UK supermarkets receive almost ten times more of the checkout price than the small-scale farmers and workers who produce them, whose share has declined over 20 years whilst the supermarkets’ share has increased.

A briefing paper putting the 2018 findings in a UK context can be found here.

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