Supermarkets are “an obstacle to the transition” towards more sustainable food, the associations reproach

Too much meat in ready meals, too many intensive agricultural products, obsession with low prices: this Thursday 2 February, the federation of Réseau action climat (RAC) associations accused large-scale retailers and public authorities of not being sufficiently committed to greater ecologically virtuous consumption.

What are supermarkets accused of?

No brand has the average: the Réseau Action Climat, which brings together in particular Greenpeace, France Nature Environment or the WWF, evaluated the action of the main French supermarket chains for one year (in order of market share E.Leclerc, Carrefour , Intermarché , Système U, Auchan, Lidl, Casino, Monoprix) on sustainable food and climate.

Even the highest-ranked brand, Carrefour, admits to AFP that it isn’t “not enough”And “this is the reason why” she has “strengthened its climate commitments” during the plan defining its strategy for the next four years, presented in November.

It is the leader in France, E.Leclerc, who is the least rated. supermarkets “encourage excessive consumption of meat and dairy products, most of which come from intensive production methods”estimated the RAC, claiming in particular that more than 9 out of 10 ready meals sold in supermarkets contained meat or fish.

However, he explains, reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to our food implies significantly reducing the consumption of products of animal origin, which account for 72% of these emissions.

Why are they targeted?

“We understand that some believe that we could go further, faster, but we are mobilized, it is essential today in the face of the environmental and climate situation”a spokesman for System U, ranked 5th out of 8 by the Climate Action Network, reacts to AFP.

“Apart from the action of the distributors, everyone must get involved, from customers to public bodies and suppliers”they say from the Carrefour side.

“By highlighting certain products over others, brands have significant power”replies Benoît Granier, food manager of the RAC, according to which the consumer is bound, in addition to his purchasing power, “by the nature of the offer and by the distribution strategies”.

In particular, the RAC calls on brands to stop promoting products of animal or meat origin, such as croquettes, hamburgers or pizzas, “except for organic products and Label Rouge”and to promote a more plant-based diet, “especially legumes and other vegetable protein products of good nutritional quality”.

The Système U spokesperson cites the example of products from organic farming. “The customer, faced with a complex economic situation” in a context of inflation, “tends to buy less organic products and more first price”.

What can be done?

The JRC invites the sector to stop “transmitting the idea that food is an expense item to be reduced as much as possible in order to consume more other types of products”.

Questioned by AFP in November, the starred chef Thierry Marx, president of the Umih hotel and restaurant industry employers’ union, also stated that “the low cost” in force in large-scale distribution “had made us lose our agriculture of quality, our industry and our craftsmanship”.

“The problem is that food is one of the possible variables for adjusting the balance. We can’t arbitrate on fuel, or very little, not on electricity, little on the toll…”observes for his part the spokesperson for System U, who claims yes “offer choice” to the consumer.

The issue of cost at the end of the supply chain is well identified by the associations, who also ask the public authorities to do so “more financially accessible” products from “sustainable agricultural models, including organic farming”both by increasing the social minimums and by reducing the VAT on fruit and vegetables e “organic and fair”.

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