Wondering who the most ethical supermarkets are in the UK?  Read on for the full results.

For a long time, we relied upon online deliveries from the supermarket. In an ideal world, we would have shopped locally and bought ethical and organic produce from markets and growers.

However, a combination of living semi-rurally in a small village with only one small convenience shop and a butcher’s, and a once-weekly visit from the fishmonger’s van meant it was difficult to shop in any other way. For a start, we’re vegetarian, so the butchers or fish van was of no use to us. The other issue is that we didn’t have a car, and all the other time pressures of life, such as jobs, a small child, social lives, etc, simply meant that ethical supermarket alternatives weren’t accessible to us.

For quite a few years we had a supermarket order delivered fortnightly to us.  In between deliveries, we topped up on things we need from the local shop. Like many people, it was what was available to us.

A couple of years ago we tried a local vegetable box scheme, and it just wasn’t for us.  Not knowing which vegetables were going to arrive made it difficult for us to plan meals around, and our food waste increased. Instead, we try and grow our own herbs and vegetables as much as we can in the summer.

We’ve had a few hits. A veritable courgette explosion! A whole summer of never having to buy lettuce! We’ve also had a few misses, including one very wet summer a year and a half ago where slugs ate EVERYTHING that dared to as much as poke its head out of the soil. But by in large our food came and still comes from the supermarket.

Which Supermarket Is The Most Ethical?

ethical supermarket shopping

I thought I’d look into how ethical the main seven supermarkets in the UK are to see which are the most ethical.  We use Sainsbury’s and I had always assumed them to be a tiny bit more ethical than Tesco. However, according to the Ethical Consumer this is sadly not the case:

supermarket ethical rating uk

Ethical Consumer rank brands out of 20, and anything scoring under 11 is deemed poor. It’s clear that supermarkets have a long way to go until they are even close to being remotely ethical.

What Can I Do?

Holding our supermarkets to account is key to bringing about ethical change. These places will only change their practices when the Government introduces legislation or taxes, or because of mounting public pressure. For example, some supermarkets and brands have switched to plastic-free teabags because of mounting consumer pressure. Therefore, any chance that you get to sign any petitions or send emails, Tweets, or Facebook comments to supermarkets related to the ethics of supermarkets then it’s important to do so.

For example, Greenpeace is currently running a petition to ditch plastic packaging. Meanwhile, Change.org is currently running a petition on supermarkets for them to source fruit and vegetables ethically and sustainably. Any chance you get, basically, call supermarkets out for unethical behaviour.

Other Alternatives

Local independent shops are your best alternative. If you don’t have any near you, then another thing that you can do, if it’s within your budget, is to instead buy your dried and tinned goods from more ethical mail order retailers. These include:

  • Planet Organic*. This is the UK’s first ethical and fully certified organic supermarket that delivers nationwide. 
  • Ethical Superstore*.  They sell a wide range of fairtrade and organic essentials and specialty food and drink, and again deliver nationwide.
  • Good Club*. An online ethical supermarket alternative selling vegan, gluten-free, and organic produce, which they ship nationwide. They’ve recently expanded to offering a zero-waste bulk food home delivery service, which I’ve tried, and loved. New customers can use the discount code AW10 to enjoy free delivery and £10 off your first order. 
  • Abel & Cole*. Depending on where you live, Abel & Cole may deliver to you. Abel & Cole deliver seasonal fruit and vegetable boxes, as well as pantry staples.

Even buying some food from a retailer like one of these, and supplementing with produce from the local supermarket is one way to reduce your reliance on the supermarkets.

Of course, this isn’t an accessible option for everyone, and that’s why it’s vitally important that we all put pressure on supermarkets to change their ways, so that ethical supermarket shopping can be eventually available to everyone.

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