On 14th August we blogged about Marks and Spencer’s decision to sell red grouse in two of its flagship London stores (see here). We were particularly interested to learn that M&S was sourcing this product from Yorkshire, one of the UK’s worst raptor persecution hotspots, and we wanted to know whether M&S could assure its customers that red grouse were not being sourced from dodgy grouse moor estates involved in the illegal persecution of hen harriers and other protected raptor species. We emailed M&S’s Director of Food, Steve Rowe, and asked him to name the estates involved and to tell us what measures were taken to ensure these estates were not involved in illegal persecution.
On 20th August we blogged about two responses we’d received from M&S (see here). We were told, amongst other things, that:
“We are working with only the most sustainable and well-managed estates, and do not work with any suppliers that interfere with Hen Harriers“.
We were also told that the names of the estates could not be divulged “as this is commercially sensitive information“.
We weren’t very impressed and we wrote back to M&S to advise that if they didn’t substantiate their claim of ‘working with only the most sustainable and well-managed estates’ and of ‘not working with any suppliers that interefere with hen harriers’ we would report them to Trading Standards for making what we believed to be misleading claims (see here).
Marks and Spencer has failed to reply and has therefore failed to substantiate its environmental claims about this product. We believe this is in contravention of The Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. This legislation states, amongst other things, that goods sold or supplied must be ‘as described’. An environmental claim made by the retailer to a consumer must be accurate. Public statements made by manufacturers, importers or producers about specific characteristics of the goods – for example, environmental claims in marketing and advertising – must be accurate and are part of the contract that the consumer has with the retailer.
According to information produced by Trading Standards, “In order for a consumer to make informed choices, the trader must provide clear, truthful and accurate information about the environmental claims they have made, which must be capable of being substantiated. The trader should not make vague or ambiguous claims, nor should they mislead consumers by implying that their environmental claims relate to the entire product when this is not the case“.
According to DEFRA’s guide for retailers on making environmental claims (see here), the retailer has to consider the ‘full environmental impact’ of the product (very relevant to red grouse, eh?) and they must also ‘make available transparent information about their environmental claim to those seeking reasonable justification of it’.
Given all the above information, and Marks and Spencer’s refusal to provide evidence to substantiate their environmental claims about their red grouse suppliers, we have now reported them to Trading Standards.
If you also want to report them to Trading Standards, you can do via an online form or by telephone, through the Citizens Advice Bureau (here). We understand that Trading Standards are particularly interested in assessing environmental claims so we’re hopeful that they will launch an investigation in this case.