They are part of our everyday lives and we rely on them to provide us with many of our grocery and homeware essentials, but recently supermarkets have started to step up and set more of an example when it comes to social responsibility. Long gone are the days when every supermarket till was well stocked with sweets, and this week saw the announcement that retail giant Tesco is expanding its initiative to offer free fruit to the children of their customers after successful trials in Scottish stores. So what other ways are our favourite supermarkets becoming more ethical?
Cutting Down Their Food Waste
Many UK households now make concerted efforts to cut down on food waste, whether it’s through using council collections or setting up a compost heap, but now UK supermarkets are starting to take more responsibility for their own food waste too. There are no official figures that relate to just the supermarket sector (although Tesco has been publishing its own figures since 2013), but the UK as a whole generates around 12 million tonnes of annual food waste, more than any other country in the EU, 75% of which could have been avoided. In March this year, large supermarket chains including Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons signed up to the voluntary Courtauld 2025 Agreement in which they pledged to reduce their food and drink waste by one fifth over the next decade. With Tesco taking the lead in more transparency over supermarket food waste, here’s hoping that others follow suit and these figures start to come down in the near future.
Another aspect of food waste that has garnered a lot of attention is the issue of ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables and the willingness of UK supermarkets to sell more of it so it doesn’t go to waste. Supermarkets across the board have started to relax their rules regarding the shape and size of this produce and in February, Asda was the first UK supermarket to start selling ‘wonky vegetable’ boxes which contained enough winter vegetables to feed a family of four for a week for just £3.50. It wasn’t long before Tesco took up the baton and in March they introduced the ‘Practically Imperfect’ range to stores and seeks to expand the type of vegetables offered under this name in the future.
Carrier Bag Charges
Although this is a government initiative, it’s worth noting that supermarket efforts have contributed to the success of the law that was recently expanded to cover English supermarkets. Government statistics released this month have shown that since the law was introduced in England last October, there have been 6 million fewer plastic carrier bags in circulation. In addition to this, retailers are passing on the £29 million raised from the 5p charges to good causes and charities.
Support for Food Banks
Recently released figures have shown that UK supermarkets are building on their support of local food banks with Tesco and Waitrose having increased their combined national donations by 16% in the last year. This figure includes customer donations in-store which totalled nearly 21,000 collections by Tesco and nearly 6700 by Waitrose. Although national figures weren’t available for Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Co-Op as they work with charities on a local rather than national basis, the number of Sainsburys stores that partnered with The Trussell Trust last year rose from 98 to 143 and the number of food donation points in their stores more than tripled.
Free Range Eggs
The most recent ethical supermarket news comes courtesy of a successful online petition set up by a 14-year-old girl to urge Tesco to commit to stop selling eggs from caged hens by 2025. The supermarket follows in the footsteps of Sanisburys, Marks and Spencer and Aldi who have also made similar pledges.
These combinations of customer and supermarket efforts are all steps in the right direction to ensure we get access to more ethical produce and that can only be a good thing. As well as purchasing in store, you can supplement your grocery shopping with online orders from all the leading UK supermarkets and as new customers, it’s possible to save money on your food using Sainsburys or Waitrose, and take advantage of the latest offers with Tesco. Just visit their pages on our site for more information on their current range and prices.
By Anna Scott, 2nd August 2016