Project update


A Happy New Year to all of our readers!

Site survey launched

Race to the Top has posted a short online survey in order better to understand how visitors use the project website. We would welcome your feedback; the form should only take a minute or two to complete. All questions are optional.

We'd love to hear from you by Friday 9 Jan if at all possible.

Website gains in popularity

The Race to the Top website had a record year in 2003, attracting over 1.2 million hits. Our page views have shown a consistent increase over the past six months, with December being the busiest month yet. There were nearly 15,000 page views last month, representing approximately 10,200 individual user sessions.

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Race to the Top results to be released

The results of the 2003 Race to the Top process will be published on the RTTT website at 16.00 on 26th November 2003, in the form of an overview report and a company profile for each of the ten major UK supermarket companies.

Read the press release.

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Data collection completed

The data collection process for 2003 has now been completed. Three companies have submitted full responses to the questionnaire: Safeway, the Co-operative Group, and Somerfield. The three other companies which took part in the 2002 pilot year (Iceland, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's) have not submitted a response to the questionnaire this year.

The data, which was collected through the retailer questionnaire [pdf], store surveys and a supplier survey, is now being analysed. The results will be published on the RTTT website on 26th November 2003, in the form of an overview report and a company profile for each of the ten major UK supermarket companies.

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Tesco conditionally agree to participate in Race to the Top

IIED received a letter from Sir Terry Leahy on 2nd June, stating that Tesco plc would like to participate in RTTT on an annual basis, provided that concerns around the issue of confidentiality, benchmarking and volume of information were resolved. A follow up meeting at Tesco took place on 23rd June.

2003 survey distributed to top UK retailers

The top 10 UK food retailers have all received the 2003 supermarket questionnaire, with a response deadline of 10th September 2003. The questionnaire has been posted at the RTTT website.

Store survey

In partnership with Sustain and National Federation of Women's Institutes, the Local Food Store Shelf Survey of Module 4 - Local Economies - is now under way. WI and WFU volunteers from around England and Wales have been provided with their store survey forms and guidance notes. Over the next few weeks they will be surveying selected branches of all ten major retailers, located in 19 towns and cities spread across England and Wales. The locations have been chosen in order to gain as wide and diverse a geographical coverage as possible.

The surveyors have been asked to record the numbers of varieties of local and locality apples, potatoes, milk, pre-packed cheeses, fresh pre-packed beef cuts and joints, and fresh pre-packed lamb cuts and joints. They have also been asked to look for any in-store information on local and locality foods, be it presented as part of special displays, posters, leaflets, or in other forms. Where there is an in-store customer service / help desk they will also ask if there is any information available in-store on local foods.

Presentation to UK Social Investment Forum

The RTTT project was presented to a UKSIF expert seminar on Supermarkets and Supply Chains hosted by Gerrard on 25th June.

What's new at

The individual module briefing papers are in the process of being updated for 2003. So far Module 3 (Workers) and Module 4 (Local) have been completed, and can be viewed online or downloaded as a Microsoft Word document.

Supermarkets & Sustainability News headlines are now being displayed on the home page as well as on the main news page. Please send your press releases to for inclusion.

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RTTT alliance news

The Soil Association has joined the organisations working with Race to
the Top.

In the build up to data collection in June-August, the project Advisory
Group has met, a methodology workshop for participating supermarkets has
been held, and a summit meeting of RTTT partner organisations and Advisory
Group members took place to discuss challenges facing the project in the
coming months.

News from the modules

A workshop to discuss the Local Sourcing module with supermarkets and
other stakeholders was held on 9 April. Speakers included Chris Dee (Booths
supermarkets), Prof David Hughes (Imperial College) and Justin Sacks (New
Economics Foundation).

Scientific Review Panel and 2003 questionnaires

Reviews of most of the briefing papers and survey methodologies have been
received. Comments will be incorporated into the 2003 questionnaires, which
are due to be sent to retailers in early June.

External communications

The project has been presented to the UK Social Investment Forum, to the
Fair Deal Group in relation to the Code of Conduct on retailer-supplier


A proposal has been submitted to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for
extension of co-funding.

New volunteer

Nick Gulhane, a journalist with the BBC, has joined the Race to the Top
project as a volunteer. He will be contributing to the Supermarkets &
sustainability news section of the website, as part of his remit to increase
the visibility of the project. He can be contacted at

What's new at

As the project enters its second year of data collection, Race to the Top is
expanding both in terms of organisations who have come on board and in
public interest in the project. Traffic to our website and subscribers to
this bulletin have shown steady growth over the year. This is without any
publicity or marketing effort being expended, with the exception of
specifically tailoring the site to raise our rankings in the major search
engines for relevant terms.

The Supermarkets & sustainability news section continues to grow, and
with additional resources now being put in to this area, we aim to become
the premier source of consolidated information on the subject. At present
the page is updated on a weekly basis, but plans are to increase the
frequency in future. If you have a relevant news story or press release that
would you would like to see on this page, please send it to:

NEW: If you are using news aggregator software, our RSS feed is now
available at:

This mailing list continues to grow solely by word of mouth. If you have
received this newsletter as a forward, why not join the list yourself by
sending a blank email


We would like to extend an invitation to all project partners and interested
parties to add a link to the project website from the appropriate area of
your own. Our audience is expanding, and in most cases a reciprocal link, if
not already in place, will be added to the RTTT site in return. Please write
to for further information.

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Project principles

The objectives of the project have recently been restated as follows:

The project is exploring the boundaries of corporate responsibility, along the interface between supermarkets and sustainability: responsibility related to staff and labour, to customers and communities, to suppliers, primary producers and landscapes, to the environment.

Progress to date

Key progress over the past year has been:

Plans for 2003-2004

Next steps are to hold face-to-face meetings with individual participating supermarkets to provide feedback on the pilot year results. From then on, the major milestones are as follows:

March 2003 Scientific workshops conducted on controversial issues around supermarkets and sustainability, e.g.. local sourcing, post-consumer waste. Data collection methods refined. Approval by Advisory Group. Draft 2003 questionnaire circulated to retailers.

May 2003 Workshop with retailers to plan second year data collection. Second year data collection process commences.

Nov 2003 Data collected and analysed. Development of 'Supermarket profiles'. Publication of results including performance and progress, targeted at interest groups, e.g. investment community. Release of annual report.

Jan 2004 Project review, in partnership with entire project alliance. Planning reviewed for 2004.

Supermarkets & sustainability news


A new section of the website has been launched, which aims to pull together all relevant headlines from news organisations, and announcements from project partners, into a single source of news relating to the project's work. The section is being updated on a weekly basis and stories for submission to these pages are welcome.

Please send relevant press releases to <>

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Data collection for the first year of the project is now under way. The 2002 RTTT supermarket questionnaire was sent to retailers on 1st July. Other data collection methods are being finalised and data will be collected during the coming months. These will include surveys of suppliers of supermarkets and shelf surveys. The data collected from the supermarkets and from other sources will not be published this year, as the process is designed to test the indicators and survey instruments this year. Where these are sound, we will use the data collected to build a baseline data set for measuring progress in subsequent years.

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A workshop with retailers was held on 12th April to discuss the draft set of indicators. These discussions will be taken into account as the final version of the indicator framework is developed. The final version will involve data collection from supermarkets and other sources, to be carried out during Summer 2002.

A Memorandum of Understanding for retailers and other organisations working with the project has been circulated. This identifies which supermarket companies and other organisations are working with the Race to the Top project. By signing it, each company/organisation demonstrates a commitment to the objectives and spirit of constructive engagement of the project. The Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Safeway and Somerfield this week took the lead in signing up. Discussions are still under way with Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco, whilst Waitrose has declined to take part at this stage.


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A second draft of the indicator framework has been developed, building on the comments received from retailers on the first draft. A draft questionnaire for supermarkets has been circulated to retailers and will be discussed at a project workshop on 12th April. Methodologies for collecting data from other sources, including stakeholders such as producers and suppliers, are being developed.

The following organisations have joined the project alliance:

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A meeting of project partners with participating retailers was held on 17th January 2002. A proposal was made not to publish the results of the benchmarking process in the first year of the project. The planned process of finalising the indicators and carrying out benchmarking to generate a data set for the first year (2002) would go ahead as planned. However, the results would not be published in the first year. This would allow a more constructive process of dialogue and consultation between the RTTT alliance partners and the supermarkets, in order to focus on establishing indicators and methodologies/survey instruments which are (a) representative of the issues, (b) reasonably accurate, (c) measure progress as well as absolute performance, and (d) not putting unacceptable workload on supermarkets.

This proposal was put to the Advisory Group. Overall, their responses expressed support for the proposed revision of the workplan. They felt that this approach would be positive for the overall long-term success of the project, and that it would allow the opportunity to develop better indicators and to attract positive media coverage. The proposal was therefore accepted and the results of the 2002 data collection process will not be published.

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A first draft of the indicator framework was developed by the project working groups and presented to supermarkets during August and September 2001. Participating retailers have provided feedback on this and the final indicator framework is now being developed, taking this feedback into account.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has confirmed that it will support the project with a funding contribution and by providing a representative for the project's Advisory Group.

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