Co-op supermarket to ballot shoppers on environmental and ethical issues

Co-op supermarket to establish green priorities after balloting its shoppers

The co-coperative supermarket group is set to ballot millions of its members and shoppers in an attempt to establish new green priorities.

The retailer, which operates 2,700 stores across the country, will quiz shoppers on issues ranging from food quality, diet and health matters, to animal welfare, community retailing, ethical sourcing, climate change and recycling.

The retailer said there were two reasons for the initiative: to find out which issues mean most to consumers, and to make it clear that some seemingly positive changes actually have negative effects, which they wouldn’t be able to support.

The move comes after other large grocers pledged to become more planet-friendly.

Marks & Spencer recently published a 100-point action plan as part of its Plan A eco-strategy, while Tesco has recently brought out a ten-point community plan designed to create a good neigbour image, pledging to become ‘a leader in helping to create a low-carbon economy’.

But Paul Monaghan, the Co-op’s head of ethics and the survey designer, is doubtful about aspects of these initiatives, dubbing new aeroplane stickers used on air-freighted exotic fruit, recently introduced by both companies, as ‘lazy thinking’.

He pin-pointed the negative effects this could have on farmers in developing countries as a problem, saying: ‘The drive to reduce ‘food miles’ and carbon dioxide could have real social impacts on third world growers as supply chains are redirected more locally.

‘There is a whole series of decisions like this being taken, which are wrong because people aren’t joining the issues up.’

He added: ‘We will try to reduce carbon, but never at the expense of the world’s poorest.’

The balloting, which will last for three months, gets under way today with a direct mailing to £1 million Co-op members. Shoppers who are not members can fill in questionnaires in-store and post them in ballot boxes.

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