Preparing for Change In the Ethical Landscape

Footprint Forum, London, March 7th 2011

Footprint Forum is organised by Foodservice Footprint whose remit is to address the environmental aspects of the foodservice process (more at ). Yesterday they organised an event at the NFT to consider how ethical marks and accreditation are having an impact on foodservice. Here are the some of the more interesting things I heard said

Wolfgang Weinmann, Cafedirect

  • Ethical onpack labels have proliferated in recent years – there are now over 90 in common use
  • This has lead to great confusion within industry and with consumers
  • Labels are NOT the answer to everything because they only deal with products and sourcing – what is needed is to look at the full sustainability impact of an entire organisation which must encompass sourcing, processing and how the organisation interfaces with other stakeholders (employees, investors, suppliers, consumers)
  • Sourcing should include a direct investment in helping producers achieve higher quality of crops and long term supply relationships (“sustainable supply”)
  • Processing is nor currently covered by labels – we need a “cradle to grave” approach where the inside of the product is consistent with the outside
  • There has been much progress made by ethical labelling over the last 20 years – now we need to move on from being product-led to whole company evaluation

Shefalee Loth, Which? Magazine

  • Recently carried out some research with consumers and ethical labels (survey plus focus groups)
  • Surprised by low level of understanding re the various onpack logos
  • Fairtrade logo known and understood by about 80% of consumers but the others much less so
  • Consumers feel there are too many schemes, streamlining number of accreditors would be good
  • Popular were schemes that encompass more than one aspect of a product eg Red Tractor
  • Consumers want logos that are independent, verifiable and underpinned by scientific evidence (supermarkets own schemes not popular)
  • 40% of consumers want an ‘omni-label’ that covers everything

Bill Vorley, International Institute for Environment and Development

  • Local is currently a very strong driver, this leading to conflicts between supporting small farmers in the South vs supporting local farmers in the North (however there is nothing inherently sustainable about local food, however it is defined)
  • Despite this big companies making strong commitment eg Unilever 100% sustainable procurement by 2020, Walmart to triple sales from emerging economies, Co-op to source everything that can be Fairtrade by 2013
  • Four possible options for companies going forward: adopt labels and standards, set targets, initiate informed debate with stakeholders as to what they want, adjust fundamental business model to ensure sustainability

Panel Discusion

  • “Ethical certification started off in retail. Food service needs it’s own certification schemes with lower costs per unit and more appropriate documentation requirements.” (Anil Alim, BaxterStorey)
  • “Some companies like Cadbury’s see working more closely with farmers as a way of securing a long-term ingredient supply in times of shortage – the Fairtrade status is almost a bonus. Interesting development is Albert Heijn’s ‘Pure and Honest’ which represents  a bundle of sustainable standards – expect more of this. Ethical schemes need to show impact on the ground. We expect more collaboration between schemes being developed in new industries.” (Karin Kreider, ISEAL)
  • “We will have to strip cost out of the certification and label initiatives and develop a low-cost alternative to certification.” (Bill Vorley, IIED)

SW 08.03.11