Ethical Performance
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retailers begin to measure up

December 2001

Nine UK supermarket chains have agreed to help develop common benchmarks for measuring their social, environmental and ethical performance.

The companies – Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Safeway, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield and Tesco – are backing a Race to the Top programme that should help measure their performance on issues such as animal welfare, biodiversity and labour standards.

The initiative is being co-ordinated by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a non-profit research group that works on sustainable development. It will produce a set of benchmarks in consultation with the companies by the end of next year.

The project has already identified seven areas which the benchmarks will cover. They are:

animal welfare standards

biodiversity and landscape

labour standards

regional sourcing and local development

public health

sustainability management and reporting

trade terms with primary producers.

Once the benchmarks are developed the supermarkets will be assessed against them annually, with results published in combination with case studies of best practice.

The IIED’s Tom Fox, who is working on the the initiative, said this would allow performance assessment and target setting. It would also nurture ‘a simplified and constructive relationship with non-governmental organizations and campaigning groups’ – and provide ‘useful pointers’ for socially responsible investment funds.

He said the supermarkets had acknowledged the growing level of scrutiny they are facing.

The work is supported by an alliance of organizations representing farming, conservation, labour, animal welfare and sustainable development interests.

They include Compassion in World Farming, the Fairtrade Foundation, Forum for the Future, New Economics Foundation, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

An advisory group of experts to the initiative includes Angela Brett of the National Consumers Council and Rob Lake of Henderson Global Investors.




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