Asda, unsurprisingly slammed the report for being “inaccurate and misleading” in a detailed blog post rebuffing the points made in the report.
Tesco added “inconsistent” to the list of criticisms and says it offers nothing to better inform consumers about the green efforts of the grocers.
In the report by government watchdog Consumer Focus the UK’s nine supermarket chains have been scored against four categories including waste, climate change, sustainable fishing and sustainable farming and each awarded a GCSE-style letter grade.
The aim of the report is clearly to create a scale on which to measure the supermarkets against the same criteria in order to make recommendations to improve sustainability across the sector as a whole.
It’s a commendable goal, and while I would expect the supermarkets to bite back against any report that pours water all over their green credentials, the criticisms being hurled at the report do appear reasonable.
The four categories it scrutinizes are incredibly narrow, and it takes a simplistic view that seems to ignore the complexities of being a “sustainable” retailer.
The Co-operative only scored a grade C overall, which I feel is slightly dubious for a food business that trades almost exclusively on its values as an ethical and responsible retailer. The Co-op received its lowest score for its sustainable fish, despite its high-profile responsible sourcing policy. Similarly, Morrisons scored its lowest score in the same category despite having a 100% sustainably sourced fish policy.
To me, there’s an air of hypocrisy about it as both retailers were criticised for not communicating the policies well enough but surely actions speak louder than words and it’s more important for a retailer to be sourcing responsibly than saying it is.
It’s not that I don’t think recycled packaging, responsible farming and fishing are important areas to be addressed by retailers, they certainly are. But, I think a government funded consumer report that puts its focus on one or two areas without factoring in the bigger picture is flawed.
Supermarkets are regularly made out to be the bad guys, accused of greenwash, but we can’t ignore the great strides that they have made to be more responsible.