Fairly Traded FAQs

23 May 2017

Frequently asked questions on our Fairly Traded tea pilot

What is the Fairly Traded pilot on tea?

We have announced a pilot programme on one crop, tea, to trial ways to bring more support to our tea farmers in East Africa as they seek to build more resilient businesses and improve the quality of life for their communities in the face of escalating challenges. 

The pilot aims to build on the Fairtrade model, providing a guarantee that our tea farmers will continue to receive all the funding currently in place, or more, including the minimum price guarantee and social premium to match Fairtrade levels - and crucially, additional benefits, including longer-term commercial relationships and individually tailored advice, data and specialist support on the ground. The pilot will be underpinned by the highest and broadest set of Sustainability Standards, which go further than existing certifications to provide farmers with advanced information across social, economic and environmental aspects of their business.

Why have you introduced a new approach to how your source tea?

Our customers care about where their food comes from - ethical and sustainable sourcing has always been and remains at the heart of our business. As we plan for the future we know that the world is changing and the challenges farmers face are increasingly complex. Rather than stand still, we’re choosing to tackle them. We are piloting a new approach to bring more support to our tea farmers - protecting all of their current benefits and adding more.

We do not have all the answers to the complex issues that our farmers are facing. But we do have their support to launch this trial on tea and test what can be done to provide an even better future for some of the world's poorest workers, their families and communities. 

Does Fairly Traded mean lower social and labour standards compared to Fairtrade?

No, quite the opposite in fact. Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards use existing standards as a benchmark but build on them to include the full breadth of social, economic and environmental standards of sustainability – ensuring they are the highest and broadest set of standards available.  

Tea farmers will benefit from using our new Sustainability Standards as they will, for the first time, receive cutting-edge data and information, derived through the process, which will enable them to see the strengths and weaknesses of their business. This information can then be used by tea farmers to develop their businesses further. We know from experience that this level of data is highly valued by farmers and our Sustainability Standards are the first to offer this level of information.

Read the Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards Factsheet

Are your standards audited?

Yes, they are independently audited. We have been developing this approach for over 3 years, benchmarking over 70 existing standards and working with leading standards expert, SAI Global, to co-author them. They are based on all of our experience with farmers across the world and will be independently verified and audited.

Read the Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards Factsheet

Are customers going to be confused with the proliferation of different standards in place?

There are already numerous certifications in place. Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards will recognise and build on these.  We’re hoping to make this simpler for our customers to buy products that cover all areas of sustainability including social, economic and environmental.

Are farmers going to be worse off as a result of the pilot?

No.  Our tea farmers will be guaranteed exactly the same level of financial support as they would with Fairtrade – a guaranteed minimum price and social premium for investment – as well as  additional benefits, including longer-term commercial relationships and individually tailored advice, data and specialist support on the ground

Does this mean you are controlling your famers?

Absolutely not. This is not about exerting more control. Our scheme is focused on providing a greater degree of support to our farmers.

We have a long history of supporting our farmers and their communities and sourcing with integrity – both here in the UK through our Farm Development Groups and internationally through our Fair Development Fund. See more here

Is this just a cost-cutting exercise? 

This project is cost-neutral. Our business will not generate extra revenue from this and the price our customers pay will also not change.

The clear benefit is with the farmers. They will receive exactly the same level of financial support as they would with Fairtrade which is a guaranteed minimum price and social premium.  In addition to this, we are working to raise more funds for farmers through external program match funding. 

Are you being transparent about the Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards? 

Our standards are published on our website and can be found here

Why are you stopping working with Fairtrade?

We are not stopping working with Fairtrade. We are piloting an approach on one product – tea – and this pilot enables us to build on the Fairtrade model.   We remain the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer, stocking over 500 Fairtrade products.