The Co-op supermarket has attacked the growing swathe of air mile logos on food products for being ‘over-simplistic’.
The retailer is today calling for a radical rethink of the current supermarket approach to packaging reduction and environmental branding issues.
Paul Monaghan, head of ethics at the ethical and fair trade supermarket, says that in the rush to boost their Green credentials competitors such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer have ignored the consequences of measures to reduce carbon emissions and packaging.
‘The advent of air mile stickers and logos are over-simplistic in their approach,’ says Monaghan. ‘We will always seek ways to reduce our carbon footprint but never at the expense of Third World farmers. Big supermarkets are looking for an intellectual shortcut to what is an extremely complex process.’
He cites the import of Kenyan roses as an example, explaining that while they are air freighted, they don’t use the heat and light that Dutch roses need to grow, and therefore have a lower carbon footprint than what is being communicated through the air mile sticker.
‘Not only are developing countries experiencing the effects of climate change first hand, but they are being affected economically as well. At best it’s lazy and at worst it is detrimental. We are not trying to be contrary, but we are keen to point out that these issues cannot be looked at in isolation,’ says Monaghan.
He also claims that attempts to reduce packaging are fuelling a trend towards potentially toxic materials.
The desire for lightweighting has started a trend to replace glass with toxic material, such as PVC, while calls to bottle goods in the UK means that developing countries are being overlooked and are resulting in a loss of jobs, he says.
The Co-operative today embarks on a three-month programme that will help the supermarket set out an ethical policy for the future.
It has sent a survey to its four million members asking their opinion on environmental issues such as recycling, packaging, fair trade policy and the reduction of carbon emissions.