Aldi has become the latest UK supermarket to commit to sustainable banana sourcing and will make the switch by the end of the year.
The discounter’s pledge follows a move to 100% sustainable bananas by Asda in March, while Lidl announced in February it would make a similar commitment by the end of the year.
It means Aldi will source some 93% of its bananas from Rainforest Alliance-accredited farms, with the remainder sourced from Fairtrade Foundation farms.
Aldi previously sourced around 15% of its bananas from either RFA or Fairtrade farms, and was placed bottom in a ranking of the major multiples in the Fairtrade Foundation’s Supermarket Scorecard for sustainable sourcing in 2014.
However, it became the first UK retailer to sign up to the NFU’s Fruit and Veg Pledge - which aims to create a more transparent and profitable fresh produce supply chain - last July. The commitment on bananas was a response to customer demand for sustainably sourced fresh produce, said joint MD for corporate buying Tony Baines.
“Our customers increasingly tell us they want to be sure that the high quality, fresh produce they buy is sustainably sourced in a way that protects the environment and is fair to suppliers,” he added. “We can do this because our unique model, long-term supplier relationships and operational efficiency mean we can offer quality products at straightforward prices.”
Aldi’s move to sustainable sourcing was welcomed by NGO Banana Link, but “big question marks” remained over RFA labour standards verification and the lack of a minimum price for growers, said international co-ordinator Alistair Smith.
“RFA certification is better than nothing but not by that much,” he added. “The big attraction for retailers is of course the easy consumer message on frogs and trees - but this should be no cover for the more difficult task of making serious environmental social and economic improvements to a very damaging and genetically vulnerable monoculture.”
It leaves Morrisons and Tesco as the only major UK supermarkets yet to commit to sustainable banana sourcing through either the RFA or Fairtrade Foundation. A spokeswoman for Tesco said it was working closely with its suppliers to ensure employment standards improved across its banana supply chain.
“We have direct relationships with our banana farmers and we are unique in having in-house local ethical and technical experts based in banana-growing regions, who work directly with banana farmers every day to check quality and improve conditions,” a spokeswoman said.
“It means we don’t need to have the same reliance as others on certification schemes - it’s the sourcing practices that matter, not the labels. We have also committed to ensuring workers on our main partner farms are paid the living wage by 2017. No certified-only retailer has made such a pledge.”