Co-op results - Producers

Indicator 2.1 View criteria

Issue: Corporate commitment to trading integrity with the supply chain

Indicator: Board-level responsibility for trading integrity

Best in class

The Co-op’s Chief Operating Officer represents the retail part of the Co-op on the Executive Board, with responsibilities covering ethical trading in the supply chain. Responsible Retailing is addressed primarily through the retailing division under the head of the Co-op Brand and Technical team.

Indicator 2.2 View criteria

Issue: Trading integrity with the supply chain

Indicator: Standards and codes of practice

Codes of practice on relationships with suppliers: The Co-op has signed up to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Code of Conduct, though it was not obliged to (the Code was targeted at the ‘Big Four’ retailers with market shares greater than 8%). The Co-op has also developed its own code of conduct on supplier relations, which includes more rigorous language than the DTI Code. This is incorporated within the Co-op’s Code of Business Conduct, though unfortunately not in the publicly available summary version.  Buyers are trained in the Codes and Co-op suppliers are regularly informed, but ‘first tier’ suppliers are not obliged to implement the code with their suppliers — generally smaller suppliers or farmers.

Country of Origin labelling. The Co-op has adopted the Food Standards Agency best practice guidelines for Country of Origin labelling, and has spelled out a supportive policy position (supplied to RTTT), committing the group to always indicate the country of origin of a product and “will not use any national flags, emblems, symbols and particular colour combinations on any product except where the product is manufactured and packed in the country concerned.”

Pricing of ‘sustainable’ products. The Co-op has a policy of not making higher profit margins from organic and Fairtrade produce compared to conventional produce.


Indicator 2.3 View criteria

Issue: Fair trading relationships

Indicator: Integrity of the trading relationship with UK farmers and suppliers

The Co-op was one of only two companies, which participated in the RTTT supplier survey, designed and conducted by the Centre for Food Chain Research at Imperial College.

The 23 responses received from Co-op suppliers yielded a score below the median of results from the pilot year. This suggests that the Co-op has some way to go [before it has ensured that policies of equity and justice in trading relations feed through to company buyers.


Indicator 2.4 View criteria

Issue: Support for smallholder producers in developing countries

Indicator: Availability of and promotion of Fairtrade Marked products

At the time of reporting, the Co-op stocked a total of 38 Fairtrade Marked products in 11 product categories, including 6 categories with own-brand Fairtrade products, with at least one product per category appearing in the bulk of the Group’s 1100 stores. These products are supported by a sustained effort of promotions, in-store advertising, special events during Fairtrade Fortnight etc. Even considering the Co-op’s ethical business constitution, this is a remarkable achievement and points the way for companies with a similar set of business challenges to go out and actively develop the Fairtrade sector.


Overall commentary and examples of good practice

Examples of good practice

The Co-op has been at the forefront of introducing Fairtrade-marked products into its stores, including own-brand, as a concerted campaign. This shows that developing the Fairtrade sector is not governed entirely by the income level of a retailers’ customer base. The Co-op:

Areas for improvement


Supermarket comments

“Fairtrade products are now a core part of our Co-op Brand range, with the recent conversion of all Co-op Brand coffee to Fairtrade signifying our strong commitment and moving Fairtrade firmly to the mainstream of supermarket retailing. There is still scope for others to add their support to Fairtrade, and we would encourage both retailers and major brands to adopt Fairtrade within their ranges. The dialogue and close relationship with producers that Fairtrade develops brings additional strength to our relationship and to our products. Both are being developed, although the diverse nature and extent of our supply chain means that we continue to work to foster effective relations with suppliers. Our code of business conduct supports this and is an open and transparent commitment to delivering our values in this area of our activity.”


Posted: 01-Dec-2003

Home | About | Issues | Results | Case studies | News | Contacts

Copyright ©2002 - 2003 IIED - all rights reserved

Site design and implementation by