Consumers International Report Evidences Best Practices with the SA8000 Standard

Consumers International’s (CI) report, "Checked Out: Are European Supermarkets Living Up to Their Responsibilities for Labour Conditions in the Developing World?" assesses socially responsible procurement policies and initiatives of leading supermarkets to see if they are making an impact.

April 2010

CI, the UK-based consumer federation of consumer organizations, found good practices in several supermarkets' policies- such as Coop Italy, Coop Denmark, and Carrefour. As both Coop Italia and Carrefour are represented on SAI's Advisory Board, we were pleased to see  Coop Italia evidenced as a good practice,  in that it applies “ the SA8000 standard to their purchasing, engage actively with a range of different stakeholder groups and they showed exceptional cooperation with the survey."  Also cited was  Carrefour's "involvement in stakeholder dialogue at different levels" - an encouraging finding recognizing the usefulness of its efforts, since as an SAI Corporate Program member it is working to engage its suppliers through customized training programs. 

Excerpting from the report’s section assessing supermarket guidelines and CSR initiatives, we note:

  • Best available practice was defined as systematic procurement through SA8000 or membership in  multi-stakeholder initiatives that require full audits and evidence of progress for all suppliers, such as ETI/DIEH

  • A number of companies combined a partial commitment to SA8000 or ETI with memberships in industry-specific initiatives that share information on, and verify good practice in, labor standards. such as BSCI and ICS

  • Some companies reported membership in business initiatives that require some audits and improvements in labor standards or demonstrated practical progress towards SA8000 certification 

Data was collected through six methods:  consumer survey; CSR survey; supermarket policies survey; suppliers’ survey; mystery shopping and anonymous inquiries; and assessing supermarket policies.

Although finding some results encouraging, CI concluded that the overall research findings were “disappointing,” because of reasons such as lack of access, or transparency of detailed information on supplier compliance, CSR initiatives not applied to all products, or supermarkets’ codes of conduct not including a commitment to a living wage.  Supermarkets play a tremendous role and influence; CI estimated that “the top five supermarkets chains in six of the eight countries surveyed control over 50% of the market,” which is a conservative estimate as the number increases if buying groups are taken into account.

The consumer-based surveys and research methods affirmed consumer interest in, and demand for, responsible trade, and that a majority of consumers “felt that supermarkets should pay a price that enabled suppliers to pay their workers a fair wage, even if it resulted in having to pay more at the till.”  A particularly interesting aspect of this result is that it came despite the fact that this survey was administered during the height of the financial crisis.

To learn more, click here to read the full report, available in English, Spanish, and French.

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