Sustainable Food: should we be more conscious of it?

Lots has been done in recent years to get the message of sustainable food across Britain, and programmes like Hugh’s Fish Fight helping educate the nation on prime time television have certainly helped this. But according to an Oxfam survey, the big food companies still have far from impressive records in their policies and actions.

The report, released on Tuesday, is the result of 18 months spent assessing the ‘Big 10’ food and drink companies – including Nestle, Kellog’s, and Coca Cola – on seven categories relating to sustainability.

Ranked out of 10 for  land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency, and water, the companies were then put in a league table. The overall standings, out of 70, look like this:

1 Nestle 38

2 Unilever 34

3 Coca-Cola 29

4 Pepsico 22

5 Mars 21

6 Danone 20

7 Mondelez 20

8 General Mills 16

9 Kellogg’s 16

10 Associated British Foods (ABF) 13

In the breakdown of this, a number of worrying observations can be made:

– Only Nestle scored more than 50% overall in the ratings, while at the bottom ABF – which includes Kingsmill and Twinings in its product stable – couldn’t even manage 20%

– The highest individual score for any category was 7; no company ranked ‘Good’ (8-10) for anything

– In contrast, both ABF and Danone scored 1/10 in three out of the seven categories, and seven companies scored at least one 1/10.

– Seven out of ten scored 1/10 in the land category, suggesting that there are still major problems concerning how the big companies treat land rights and issues in food production

Snickers is just one of the common brands implicated by the report. (Photo: Flickr: Orin Zebest)

Snickers is just one of the common brands implicated by the report. (Photo: Flickr: Orin Zebest)

As Oxfam say then, the big companies can do a lot better.

In the words of their chief executive Barbara Stocking: “British based Associated British Foods is bottom of our scorecard but there are no gold medal performers amongst these big hitting food companies. All ten are failing to use their immense influence on the supply chain to help end the hard to swallow injustice of an imbalanced food system.

“Business as usual is no longer acceptable, all these giants must urgently raise their game and ensure that consumers enjoying their bar of chocolate or cup of coffee are also helping the world’s poorest people.”

Oxfam are now urging the public to help improve the situation through pestering CEOs and using social media to promote the problem.

The report may make people think twice about what they are buying, but it has not been accepted by all. An ABF spokesperson said it was “simply ridiculous” to suggest it was trying to hide its actions from public view, while a response from Unilever suggested Oxfam’s campaign was a “missed opportunity” to look at all the organizations that needed to come together on global food security.

See all the responses here and tell us what you think below.

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