The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which regulates adverts and packaging, ruled that adverts featuring Sainsbury’s ‘Fairly Traded’ tea has the potential to mislead consumers, by implying that the tea was in fact Fairtrade Certified when it is not.

As we reported in November, last year Sainsbury’s withdrew its tea from the official Fairtrade scheme, instead opting to set up its own internal ethical standards which it labelled as ‘Fairly Traded’.

At the time campaigners pointed out that Sainsbury’s labelling lacked the transparency and accountability of Fairtrade, and amounted to the supermarket piggybacking on consumer recognition of fair trade, while ducking the standards and certification fees paid to the Fairtrade Foundation which administers the official scheme.

As one of the UK’s largest Fairtrade retailers, there are fears that Sainsbury’s apparent loosening of its commitment to Fairtrade could threaten the integrity of the label, as well as confusing consumers as to what the standards mean.

Co-operative Party MPs, led by Stella Creasy and Stephen Doughty have been instrumental in challenging what they dub ‘fauxtrade’ tea, working in partnership with Labour colleagues including Holly Lynch and other members of the cross-party Fairtrade APPG to draw attention to the issue.

Since November, thousands of party members and supporters have also signed a petition calling on Sainsbury’s to reverse the decision. While the supermarket has not yet agreed to resume Fairtrade certification of its tea, today’s ruling presents a huge opportunity for it to do the right thing and to restore its well-earned reputation as a champion of fair trade.

Commenting on the ruling, Co-operative MP Stella Creasy said:

This ruling should be a wake-up call for Sainsbury’s that backing out of the Fairtrade movement and pretending its Fairly Traded tea is the same won’t wash – the ASA agree how Sainsbury’s present its products will confuse consumers. Put simply, its ‘fauxtrade’ tea is not the same thing and consumers deserve the right to know.

Fairtrade Fortnight debate in Parliament

Separately,Geraint Davies MP led Co-operaitve MPs in a debate in Parliament today to mark Fairtrade Fortnight. He joined with MPs of all parties in drawing attention to the enduring strength of the Fairtrade label and the positive impact it makes on the lives of the World’s poorest.

Building on the Party’s campaign ‘Don’t Make the World’s Poorest Pay for Brexit’, Davies also secured assurances from the government’s International Development Minister Harriet Baldwin MP that trade deals pursued by the UK post-Brexit will uphold existing protections for developing countries. Baldwin’s comments are warmly welcomed, and we look forward to hearing them reiterated by her colleagues across government.

So with action in parliament, beyond and by members across the country, voices across the Co-operative Party are using this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight to celebrate the success of Fairtrade and to champion a fair deal for the world’s poorest.