Trouble’s brewing: Woodford Green church protests Sainsbury’s move away from Fairtrade

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 November 2017

The parish of St. Thomas of Canterbury

The parish of St. Thomas of Canterbury


A supermarket in Woodford Green has found itself in hot water with church parishioners over a cup of tea.

Following supermarket chain Sainsbury’s decision to ditch the Fairtrade Foundation mark from their tea, there has been growing unrest amongst supporters in the borough.

Now at St Thomas Of Canterbury Church, in High Road, Woodford Green, parishioners David Underwood and Peter Sherlock have gathered more than 180 signatures against the decision.

The outcry was sparked by Sainsbury’s announcement in May that it was to replace the Fairtrade mark on its tea with its own “Fairly Traded” scheme for its Red and Gold Label tea.

Sainsbury’s has said its scheme will mimic Fairtrade in providing a fair price for goods and an additional social premium.

But the protesting duo want the supermarket chain to reconsider and have emailed their petition to the Sainsbury’s store manager in Woodford Green and to the company’s CEO Mike Coupe.

Upon hearing of the parish’s stance, rival chain Waitrose has now donated enough Fairtrade tea and coffee to the church, in High Road, to last them the next six months.

The church became a Fairtrade supporter in March 2009 and are determined to persuade the supermarket chain to reverse its decision, said David Underwood, who led the parish’s campaign.

He added: “Tea can be powerful.

“Every Fairtrade cuppa makes a difference to the lives of tea farmers and workers in some of the world’s poorest communities.

“We believe Sainsbury’s are weakening this power by ditching the Fairtrade Mark from their own-brand tea and replacing it with a Fairly Traded label.

“It’s very likely to mislead customers who may think Fairly Traded is the same as independent Fairtrade certification.

“It’s not, and many of our parishioners and friends, as customers of Sainsbury’s, clearly wanted to let them know how they feel.”

Campaigners claim that under “Fairly Traded”, farmers and producers lose direct control of the additional money raised from their products and decisions on funding are taken instead by a board established by Sainsbury’s in the UK.

Groups including Catholic aid agency CAFOD, Christian Aid and the National Union of Students (NUS) are calling on chief executive Mike Coupe to rethink the supermarket’s plans.

Chris Driscoll, CAFOD’s representative in Woodford Green, said: “We’re very thankful to the parishioners from St. Thomas of Canterbury for showing their local Sainsbury’s that they care about keeping Fairtrade.

“If this was parliament, then over 100,000 people signing a petition would be enough to secure a debate on what Sainsbury’s is doing.

“The Fairtrade mark is widely recognised, hugely trusted and we want to see it back on Sainsbury’s own-brand tea.

“Hopefully the acts of David and other parishioners will help Sainsbury’s come to that decision too.”

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