U.K.: Asda criticized for lack of Fairtrade bananas
The move is part of Asda's ongoing sustainability strategy and will operate alongside its existing Fairtrade banana range, currently representing just 7% of its bananas.
Asda said it would source all its other bananas from farms certified to the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) by March 2016. SAN certification is necessary for a farm to become Rainforest Alliance Certified and for the produce from that farm to carry the green frog seal.
The Rainforest Alliance works to improve sustainability in tropical and subtropical forests and agricultural landscapes around the world by supporting the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities.
With regards to banana production, the Alliance helps bring about positive changes for producers by helping them conserve their natural resources.
Bananas are one of Asda's top selling products and this move will involve more than 700 million individual bananas sold in its U.K. stores every year, equating to approximately 93%.
Chief customer officer Barry Williams says Asda was the first U.K. supermarket to make such a commitment to Rainforest Alliance Certified bananas, and he urged other retailers to follow suit.
"We have been working hard with our suppliers for three years to ensure our commitment to sourcing bananas from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms can be realized," he says in a release.
"We believe this will help improve the sustainability of the banana industry. The banana supply chain can be complicated but through our strong grower relationships we know that all the bananas we buy are from sources that work to ensure effective environmental stewardship and help workers enjoy safe working conditions and better standards of living.
"Our commitment to Rainforest Alliance certification is good news for customers who can rest assured that Asda bananas are great value and are sustainably sourced. We call on other supermarkets to follow our lead."
Asda will continue to sell Fairtrade bananas that make up 7% of the total range and continues to recognize the work and support of the Fairtrade Foundation, particularly in relation to smallholder farmers in the Caribbean.
However, Fairtrade Foundation CEO, Michael Gidney, warns the road to sustainability does not end with certification.
He points out that although Asda's move is a positive step, several other British-based supermarkets have worked on banana supply chain improvements and securing Fairtrade prices for farmers for many years.
He also criticises Asda for only sourcing 7% Fairtrade bananas.
"Fairtrade welcomes all moves towards more sustainable sourcing of bananas. Real sustainability starts with farmers being paid a fair price for their produce, a fundamental issue in the banana industry," he says in a statement.
"Let's be clear, this move by Asda comes a full eight years since Sainsbury's and Waitrose committed 100% of their bananas to Fairtrade certification, and more than three years since the Cooperative started selling 100% Fairtrade bananas.
"Only Fairtrade includes the payment of Fairtrade prices and additional premiums for small farmers and workers to invest in their own development. In context of U.K. supermarket price wars, ensuring farms earn the cost of production is a key assurance the public is looking for.
Last year more than 181,000 emails were sent to Asda and Tesco asking both retailers to increase availability of Fairtrade bananas in-store. In Asda's case, consumers were asking for Fairtrade availability to increase from the current 7%.
"We're disappointed that public demand is still unheeded," adds Gidney.