TEN top supermarkets have been handed ratings for their friendliness to British farmers for the first time in a new report.
The National Farmers Union stops short of deciding which are best and worst but has published its analysis of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies.
The report praises a number of retailers including discount chains but finds that Marks & Spencer and Waitrose continue to lead the way in their relationship with British farmers.
NFU corporate affairs director Tom Hind said: “Many people demand that big businesses adopt more responsible commercial policies.”
The report says: “Morrisons and the Co-operative should be commended in particular for their strong commitments to 100 per cent British sourcing across key product lines such as fresh beef, pork, poultry, eggs and milk. Additionally, Morrisons commits to sourcing 100 per cent UK fresh lamb.
“Despite questions on turkey and lamb, Waitrose’s sourcing is noteworthy and we also single out Aldi for specific mention, considering its status as a discount retailer. It commits to sourcing a considerable amount of fresh food from UK farms and has tackled some less obvious opportunities like frozen chips and bedding plants.
“Despite otherwise having very strong CSR and sourcing credentials, we were disappointed to see that Marks & Spencer does not readily distinguish between UK and Irish sourcing.
“Companies may be making commitments to increase UK sourcing without saying what current levels are. We would, therefore, like to see all retailers be more explicit about the baselines and measurements that will be used to evaluate commitments that are made.”
The report says Sainsbury’s was beginning to address this problem. It continues: “This, coupled with its ambition to double its UK sourcing above existing levels, marks the company out for the level of its ambition with regard to UK sourcing.
“Both Asda and Tesco rely considerably on imports, notably in respect of fresh meat. Both have stated aims to improve the proportion of UK food they sell, although we believe they need to establish clearer baselines and targets.
“Lidl is beginning to improve its communication on sourcing and, although known to stock a relatively high proportion of UK-sourced fresh meat, it can enhance this further. Iceland does not communicate its policies particularly well.”
The report acknowledges that a number of big chains have tried to find a way of paying dairy farmers fairly, praising moves by Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
In conclusion, the report says: “Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have long been seen as leading the pack in terms of relationships with British farmers.
“Our survey reveals that both maintain strong credentials in terms of supplier relations, pricing and sourcing, although M&S needs to differentiate UK and Irish sourcing. It has to be recognised that whilst both retailers have national coverage, they are relatively small and operating towards the top-end of the grocery market.
“Turning to the big five (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op) we are impressed by the commitments that Morrisons has been making towards British farming across a number of fronts.
“We remain convinced that the company could and should go further in terms of its relationships with dairy farmers.
“In this regard, Asda and particularly Tesco have led the field, although Sainsbury’s recent moves are commendable.
“The discount retailers are starting to catch up. As their market increases, so will the attention they receive from stakeholders.”
A link to the full NFU report can be found at http://tinyurl.com/dxlk3od/