What process did we go through to rank the supermarkets?
A description of PAN UK’s methodology

Below is a description of the process that PAN UK went through to produce our supermarket ranking. It was an extremely detailed process so we have just given an overview but are happy to answer additional questions so please do contact us if you want further information.

Stage 1: Supermarkets selected

We selected supermarkets based on their share of the UK groceries market in 2019. This gave us a list of the top ten supermarkets in order of grocery market share: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi, Morrisons, Lidl, Co-op, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Iceland.

Stage 2: Survey sent to supermarkets

We sent a survey to each of the 10 supermarkets, with a four week deadline to respond. The survey asked questions about the following eight topics related to pesticides in supermarkets’ global supply chains:

  • ‘Supporting suppliers to use non-chemical alternatives’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • What support does the company provide to help suppliers, in particular farmers and growers, to reduce pesticide use in their operations?
    • Does the company have a stated objective to promote Integrated Pest Management amongst its farmers and growers?
    • What form does the support offered to farmers and growers on IPM take? (for example, research, training, guidance documents, bespoke advice,  enabling farmers and growers to share learnings on IPM with each other)
  • ‘Monitoring and reducing pesticide residues in food’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • What items does the company monitor for pesticide residues? (for example, fruit and vegetables, wheat products, rice, meat, dairy, fish)
    • Does the company conduct testing specifically for glyphosate residues?
    • Are there action plans in place for tackling the most serious residue problems?
  • ‘Phasing out the most hazardous pesticides’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • Does the company use hazard classifications or other criteria to decide which active substances to prohibit, restrict or monitor?
    • Does the company have lists of active substances that it prohibits or restricts throughout its supply chain?
    • Does the company have a commitment in place to phase out the most hazardous pesticides (known as Highly Hazardous Pesticides or HHPs) from its supply chain?
    • In particular, does the company have any measures in place to address concerns regarding the use of the following active substances in the supply chain:
      • Lambda-cyhalothrin
      • Chlorpyrifos
      • Thiacloprid
      • Flusilazole
      • Carbendazim
      • Chlorothalonil
      • Linuron
      • Paraquat
      • Glyphosate
  • ‘Engaging with customers on reducing pesticide use’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • Does the company have any measures/initiatives in place to encourage consumers to:
      • Buy fruit and vegetables which aren’t cosmetically perfect?
      • Accept that they may occasionally find a ‘bug’ (either a pest or beneficial) in fresh produce they buy from you?
      • Accept that not all fresh produce items will be available all year round?
  • ‘Reducing harm caused to bees and pollinators’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • What is the company doing to ensure that bees and other pollinators are not harmed as a result of its supply chains?
    • What specific support does the company provide for suppliers to adopt pollinator friendly practices?
    • Are there any measures in place to ensure that the three neonicotinoids that were banned by the EU in 2018 (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) are not being used to grow products in the company’s global supply chain?
    • What measures does the company have in place to monitor, reduce and stop the use of the following active substances that are harmful to bees and other pollinators?
      • Fipronil
      • Sulfoxaflor
      • Flupyradifurone
      • Permethrin
  • ‘Being transparent about pesticides’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • What information on pesticides does the company make publicly available?
    • Does the company publish the results of its residue testing?
    • Does the company publish lists of pesticides that have been banned from its supply chain?
    • Is the company willing to provide PAN UK with the lists of pesticides that it bans, restricts or monitors throughout its supply chain?
  • ‘Selling pesticide products’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • Does the company sell pesticide products (including weed killers) for use in homes and gardens?
    • Does the company provide any guidance information for members of the public on how to minimise the health and environmental risks associated to the pesticide products it sells?
    • Does the company offer deals and discounts on the pesticide products it sells?
    • Does the company sell non-chemical products for controlling weeds and insects?
    • Does the company provide any guidance information for members of the public on non-chemical alternatives to pesticides?
  • ‘Boosting organic sales’ assessed supermarkets on the following sub-topics:
    • Does the company have any plans to increase the amount of organic items it sells?

Download the full PAN UK supermarkets survey here.

Stage 3: Supermarkets scored and ranked

After four weeks, PAN UK received survey responses from all of the top 10 supermarkets, except for one (Lidl). We set about analysing and scoring the responses.

The majority of the survey questions were qualitative, but some were quantitative. Each answer was scored from low to high 1-3. A higher score was received when a supermarkets was doing well compared to other supermarkets, and likewise a low score was received if a supermarket was doing comparatively badly.

Based on their scores, supermarkets were then allocated a ranking for each topic of ‘lagging behind’ (1 trolley), ‘could do better’ (2 trolleys), ‘making good progress’ (3 trolleys) or ‘outstanding’ (4 trolleys). Each supermarket’s total number of trolleys was added up to reveal the final ranking positions. When two supermarkets received the same total number of trolleys, the supermarket which received the highest number of ‘making good progress’ rankings was placed higher up the overall ranking.

Although M&S and Iceland do not sell gardening products and therefore don’t stock pesticide products, their scores were sufficiently high (M&S) and low (Iceland) for this to not affect their positions in the overall ranking.

Stage 4: Supermarkets given an Opportunity to Comment

We sent each supermarket an outline of what we were planning to say about them publicly. They were then given 10 days to comment on these statements. We received responses from all supermarkets except for Asda, Iceland and Lidl. PAN UK has represented the responses we received as fairly and honestly as possible, while making them comprehensible and engaging to the public.

Next steps

In 2020, PAN UK plans to work closely with as many supermarkets as possible to help them strengthen their pesticide policies and reduce pesticide-related harms in their supply chains.

After a year of direct engagement, in 2021, we will send another survey to UK supermarkets, based on similar topics. They will once again be ranked according to a similar methodology, this time also highlighting progress made since the first ranking in 2019. Over the course of this project, which runs at least until the end of 2022, we hope to assist UK supermarkets in making considerable headway at reducing pesticide-related harms linked to their supply chains.

Ask your supermarket to take action on pesticides