Fairtrade group pours scorn on Sainsbury’s tea rebranding

Members of the Worthing Fairtrade Town group outside Sainsbury's in Lyons Farm retail park. Holding the banner is (left) Dereck Prentis, 71, and (right) Richard Battson, 70
Members of the Worthing Fairtrade Town group outside Sainsbury's in Lyons Farm retail park. Holding the banner is (left) Dereck Prentis, 71, and (right) Richard Battson, 70

Fairtrade campaigners have poured scorn on a Sainsbury’s pilot scheme which removed the brand from its tea range.

Members of the Worthing Fairtrade Steering Group delivered a letter to the manager of Sainsbury’s in Lyons Farm, expressing their disapproval that the Fairtrade mark has been removed from their Red Label and Gold Label tea, and replaced with ‘fairly traded’.

Dereck Prentis, 71, from Findon Valley, is a founding member of the group, which has been running since 2005, when Worthing was made a Fairtrade town. He said: “Sainsbury’s say they are an ethical organisation, so they need to put their money and their marks where their mouth is.”

According to its website, Sainsbury’s launched the pilot scheme to help its tea farmers in Malawi, Kenya and Rwanda strengthen their businesses in the face of ‘global warming, extreme weather and volatile prices’.

But Richard Battson, 70, from Broadwater, said: “It is a very retrograde step. The Fairtrade mark is well-known everywhere and has got maximum benefits to the producer, whereas Sainsbury’s’ is a half-hearted effort set to confuse.”

According to group chairman Rod Thick, farmers in Africa have opposed the move, as it takes away their power to decide where to invest the Fairtrade money in their communities.

The group also believes the similar wording of the brand to Fairtrade will be confusing for customers, and fears the scheme could spell the beginning of the end for Sainsbury’s relationship with Fairtrade.

The supermarket claims to be the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer, stocking more than 500 Fairtrade products.

However, Mike Coupe, chief executive of the Sainsbury’s group, said the move would add to the benefits and standards currently enjoyed by Fairtrade farmers. He added it would not save the company money, and would be independently audited.

Mr Coupe said: “The easy choice by far in these resource constrained times would be for Sainsbury’s to maintain the status quo.

“But, put simply, we don’t see more of the same as an option in the face of the escalating challenges facing our farmers and their communities.

“That’s why we’ve launched our Fairly Traded tea pilot, and that’s why we ask to be judged on our results.”