Buy? Or don’t buy?

Buy? Or don’t buy?

This test is an initiative of Fairfood International. Fairfood is a non-profit, campaign and lobby organisation that encourages the food industry to make its supply chains sustainable. In this way, Fairfood wants to contribute to fighting global hunger and poverty: ‘Eat fair, beat hunger!’

In the supermarket you have to choose between all kinds of products. When you make these choices, do you also consider how purchases in your shopping-basket are produced?

Do the test, add up your points as you go along and check your buying behaviour

 Question 1. When I go shopping, I pay special attention to

  1. The brand and price.
  2. The ingredients.
  3. The certification label on the packaging.
  4. Nothing, I just buy what I like.

Answer 1.

  1. Who doesn’t? But when there are two brands of the same price and quality, you might choose the brand that is produced in a more sustainable way.  2 points
  2. Ah, a conscious consumer. Did you know that three-quarters of supermarket products contain ingredients produced from developing countries? And that some of the ingredients’ supply chains (e.g. sugar, peanuts, pepper, and palm oil) things are amiss, such as bad working condition and environmental damage? 4 points
  3. Clever certification labels tell a lot about a product. Some certifications attach importance to good working conditions; others pay more attention to the environment or to the health of consumers. 4 points
  4. Of course you can choose whatever you like. But you can also eat well and responsibly. 0 points


Question 2. I associate the term ‘sustainable food’ with

  1. Left-wing politics, doesn’t interest me one bit.
  2. Fresh, unprocessed products and a healthy eating pattern.
  3. Consuming more consciously, and by doing so helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the world.
  4. 100% perfectly produced and traded food.

Answer 2.

  1. Left wing? Don’t believe it. Politicians of all colours, from extreme right to the far left and from conservatives to Green socialists, make a strong stance for sustainable food products. Read their statements on  More statements from international politicians will follow. 0 points
  1. Sustainability is not the same thing as healthy. Crisps, peanuts, cake and sweets can also be produced sustainably and traded fairly. 1 point
  2. An excellent ambition. About 5,000 people die everyday of starvation and poverty related deaths while there is enough food in the world. According to the campaign and lobby organisation Fairfood, Western trade policies are a significant cause of this iniquity; however, the solution lies certainly with consumers too: ‘Eat fair, beat hunger!’ 4 points
  3. Well, it’s not possible to guarantee that a product is a 100% perfect. Fairfood encourages progress. A product becomes sustainable if, compared to other similar products from competing brands, it is better for people, the environment and the economy. 3 points


Question 3. Doing shopping with attention to sustainable products, in my opinion

  1. It is not necessary.
  2. Costs too much time. Is not worth the effort bicycling from one organic and health food store to the other.
  3. It’s important. But I do not know how most products are produced.
  4. It is easily done. All my groceries are produced sustainably.

Answer 3.

  1. Perhaps you’re already consuming quite a few products which are good to humankind, environment and economy.  An everyday supermarket can be selling sustainable products. 0 points
  2. You don’t have to. Most supermarkets have a considerable selection of sustainable products. 1 point
  3. Great, you’re going for it. 3 points.
  4. Very good! You seem to shop very consciously. 4 points


Question 4. I consider sustainable products

  1. Expensive.
  2. Poorly available.
  3. Taste bad.
  4. None of the above misconceptions.

Answer 4.

  1. Sustainable products are not always expensive.  There are many very cheap supermarket products that are produced with consideration for people, the environment and the economy. 1 point
  2. Certainly not!  Even in a very ordinary supermarket there are higher than average sustainable products sold for your everyday shopping, like, soft drinks, sandwich fillings, fruit, etc. Check for more information. 1 point
  1. Shame on you! Sustainable products are just as good and tasty as their non-sustainably produced counterparts. Go and do a fair taste again! 0 points
  1. Of course! 4 points


Question 5. I check for certification labels on the packaging of my purchases.

  1. True, because I want to know whether a product is produced organically or not.
  2. True, because I want to know whether a product is produced sustainably and traded fairly.
  3. True, because I want to know weather a product is healthy for me or not.
  4. Untrue, seals of approval tell me nothing.

Answer 5.

  1. There are several labels that ensure that several products meet specific requirements concerning animal welfare, the environment, and agricultural methods.  3 points
  2. Fairtrade is an international certification organisation and Fair Trade Original is a trade organisation that has its own products. Both stand for good working conditions and fair production and trading. 4 points
  3. Your own health is very important, but how about the health & wellbeing of the people who produces your product. Fairfood is an independent organisation that encourages consumers to eat and drink sustainable products. This includes, among other things, assessing the relative sustainability of supermarket products. In this assessment, Fairfood takes into account people, the environment and the economy – hence, the full picture of sustainability. Fairfood is not a label.  2 points
  4. That is possible. Many products without certification are produced and traded sustainably. 0 points.


Question 6. If my supermarket doesn’t sell any sustainably produced chocolate,

  1. I just buy the chocolate that they have.
  2. I buy something else; I am not a chocoholic.
  3. I go to another shop.
  4. I ask the manager whether he or she wants to include sustainably produced chocolate on their shelf.

Answer 6.

  1. A shame. Chocolate is delicious, but the production of many chocolates are contaminated with child labour, slavery, poverty and hazardous pesticides. 0 points
  2. You are right, plenty to choose from. 3 points
  3. Good idea. Many supermarkets sell sustainable chocolates. 3 points
  4. That is super! Every mini-lobbying helps. 4 points


Question 7. Okay, of course I know that in order to grow soybeans deforestation on a large scale, erosion, environmental pollution and oppression of small farmers are involved. But I

  1. Never eat soybeans. I’m not vegetarian.
  2. Only eat soybeans if they are included in food products, so not very much.
  3. Try to eat products with ‘green’ or Basel soybeans.
  4. Have signed the soybean petition, or I am going to do this.

Answer 7.

  1. Soybeans are not just meat substitute. By eating meat, dairy products, and eggs, you also eat soybeans. The protein-rich scraps of soybeans are used for animal feeds. At least five kilos of soybeans are needed for one kilo of meat. 1 point
  2. This will disappoint you. Around 60% of supermarket products contain soybeans. 1 point
  3. Great! The production of ‘green’ or Basel soybeans takes the environment and working conditions into account. Some major companies have already switched to using responsible soybeans. 4 points
  4. The soybean petition is being used to lobby companies in the hope that they will start purchasing sustainable soybeans. This has already succeeded with several producers! Support the lobby, visit 4 points


Question 8. When a company is not transparent about its production methods,

  1. I do understand this. But every company must still abide by the law.
  2. I do understand this. A company has better things to do.
  3. I do understand this. It is impossible to know everything about a product, especially with products from developing countries.
  4. I don’t accept this. As a consumer, I have the right to know what I support with the products that I purchase. Who knows?  Perhaps the company has something to hide?

Answer 8.

  1. Well, there are indeed international treaties and standards in the area of sustainable and responsible production. However, there is not much transparency and there is a lack of actual regulations. 3 points
  2. Okay, certainly this is quite a task for big companies to identify everything in all individual products. But this is actually part of the role of the management to be transparent. Incidentally, sustainability is certainly more frequent now on companies’ agendas. 1 point
  3. This is certainly difficult, but, every company should know how their products came about, from farm to table. Unfortunately, too many companies still have no explanation about the origin of their products. 2 points
  4. As long as companies refuse transparency about how a product is produced and traded, you cannot make a good choice as a consumer. Therefore, Fairfood recommends consumers to give preference to products that are transparent. 4 points


Question 9. The responsibility for the level of sustainability of the food on my plate lies mainly on

  1. The industry and the trade.
  2. The supermarkets and the catering industry.
  3. The government and the EU authorities.
  4. Me.

Answer 9.

  1. Farmers in developing countries often receive no more than a starvation wage for their harvests. Buyers and traders are also not so fussy when it comes to working conditions (child labour, dangerous pesticides), the environment (falling ground water levels, overfishing, deforestation) and the economy (corruption, cartels). Fairfood places a major share of the responsibility for making products sustainable to the food companies.
    2 points
  2. Increasingly, more supermarkets and restaurants take the initiative by focussing on more ethical purchasing. The idea is: if they provide more attention and room for sustainable products, consumers will follow on their own accord. 2 points

3.    Unfair free-trade treaties and farming subsidies threaten the developing countries’ competitiveness and with this also the ability of millions of workers and farmers to support themselves. Moreover, there is still no obligatory legislation concerning the traceability of the products.2 points

4.     Consumers – thus you – have a lot of power. If there is more demand for sustainable products, companies must provide more supply in order to meet this demand. 2 points


Question 10. ‘Eat fair, beat hunger!’ This sounds good, but

  1. What can I contribute to making the world market more sustainable?
  2. Can it cost our jobs if products from developing countries have free access into Europe?
  3. To be sure, I just buy nothing at all from  these questionable sectors, such as tea, coffee, chocolate, soybeans, peanuts, rice, sugar, oranges, Brie, prawns?
  4. No buts. I want to commit to consuming sustainable food and beverages for a fairer world. What can I do?

Answer 10.

  1. Perhaps you think you cannot contribute but everybody’s contribution is helpful to a better world. 2 points
  2. That remains to be seen. If the production and trading would be more ethical and sustainable in the developing countries, a new middle class might emerge there, who would have more to spend. The people there could then also start buying products from European countries. 1 point
  3. Let’s be realistic. Almost nobody can go without their daily shopping. And that is absolutely unnecessary, too, because relatively sustainable products from ‘bad’ sectors are fully available. 3 points
  4. Full marks. In the first place: you buy supermarket products consciously. In addition, you can also assist actively by signing petitions at Have you become really enthusiastic? Submit yourself as a supporter, trainee or pollster. 4 points



Now… how many points did you score (and be honest)

Up to 13 points

Phew. You do live very much in the here and now. Without much trouble, you could also help to make the world a bit more sustainable. So, what’s stopping you?

14 to 27 points

You are on the right path, but still wrestling with the practical understanding. Hopefully, this test has given you some new tips.

28 to 27 point

Sustainability is not just blah blah for you; you really believe in it and act accordingly. You are a trendsetter!



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