To Buy or Not To Buy?

Issue 268
September/October 2011
What Comes Next?


To Buy or Not To Buy?

issue cover 268

Cover: Ai Weiwei, April 2009. Photograph copyright: Elisa Haberer

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Photograph: Barn Owl Centre in Gloucester, courtesy The Co-operative

Photograph: Barn Owl Centre in Gloucester, courtesy The Co-operative

Can supermarkets ever be good for the environment?

In the midst of relentless news about the serious decline of Britain’s farmland bird species and bee populations, it’s encouraging to hear about a supermarket that is actively working to provide wildlife habitat on its own farms. The supermarket is, of course, The Co-operative – the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by shareholders but by its 6 million members – and since most of us use supermarkets on a regular basis, it’s good to know that at least one is working with Nature, not against it.

The Co-op’s new ‘Habitat Heroes’ venture has been established on six of its farms (the Co-op is also the UK’s biggest farming organisation, with 50,000 acres), providing owl nesting boxes, an artificial otter holt, bee corridors, wild-flower meadows, bat boxes and water-vole protection (whereby the farm manager staggers ditch clearance to allow the voles time to reproduce).

Sourcing groceries from a company that conserves Nature in this way can surely assuage a little of our ‘supermarket guilt’?

Lorna Howarth is Development Director at Artists Project Earth.

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