Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Co-op declares itself against anti-air freighting move

June 2008

The Co-operative Group has opposed a proposal by the UK’s Soil Association to revise its standards in order to discourage the air freighting of organic food products from overseas.

The association, which licenses organic food producers and processors, has just finished a three-month consultation on the proposal, which it says could be an answer to the environmental impact of transporting organic produce around the world.

However, Laura Vickery, the Co-op’s social reporting manager, said in a letter to Patrick Holden, director of the association: ‘We consider that focusing on air freight is a very poor proxy for the environmental impact of a product, and also does not adequately deal with other social and/or economic consequences of disincentivizing air freight, particularly for producers in the developing world.

‘It doesn’t make sense at the most fundamental level for the Soil Association to focus on air freight, when the environmental impact of meat and dairy products and use of forced heating in glasshouses are not subject to an equivalent level of scrutiny and public discussion.’

The association concedes that less than one per cent of imported food is air-freighted, but emphasizes that this contributes 11 per cent of the carbon emissions from UK food distribution, and that the practice is growing rapidly.

It said there was consensus that its ethical standards ‘should address air freight’ in some way, but that any action should not undermine organic farming ‘as a means of alleviating poverty and preventing environmental degradation in developing countries’.

The Co-operative Group | UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability

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