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Responsible and ethical sourcing

Coles defines ethical sourcing as minimising the potential for labour and human rights issues in its supply chain, while responsible sourcing is focused on animal welfare and the sourcing of raw materials. Some of the key ways in which Coles manage these issues is through certification, monitoring and compliance audits, and product labelling.


Through the Responsibly Sourced Seafood program, Coles maintains its commitment to independently assess all wild fisheries and aquaculture farms which supply Coles Brand. Coles' seafood products are all certified to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification or meet Coles Responsibly Sourced Seafood criteria.

“Coles has played a pioneering role in sustainable seafood. It has the only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) chain of custody certified wetfish counters in Australia, and offers the largest range of certified products of any Australian retailer. Coles’ sourcing policy is world-leading.”
- Patrick Caleo, MSC Regional Director, Asia-Pacific

Meat and poultry

Coles Brand’s animal welfare policies focus on reducing the products sourced from close confinement systems, such as battery cages and sow stalls. Coles Brand fresh eggs have been cage free since January 2013 and all fresh pork has been sow stall free since January 2014.

Coles’ approach to animal welfare for Coles Brand farmed animals is based around the five freedoms:

  • freedom from hunger and thirst;
  • freedom from discomfort;
  • freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  • freedom to express (most) normal behaviour; and
  • freedom from fear and distress.

This policy covers dairy, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, pigs and aquaculture species with Coles Farm program assessments providing consistent monitoring and maintenance of animal welfare standards.

A producer steering committee is in place for each key species, to review Coles’ policies and the results from Coles Farm program assessments.

All Coles Brand fresh pork, ham and bacon are sourced from farms that only use gestation stalls for a maximum of 24 hours, as opposed to the industry standard of 10 days.

Coles free range pork is the only RSPCA-Approved fresh pork stocked nationally by an Australian supermarket. A long-term contract has allowed an increase in the number of RSPCA-Approved pigs grown exclusively for Coles in Western Australia and an increase in farm employment.

All Coles Brand poultry has been exclusively sourced from RSPCA Approved farms since January 2014. In 2013, when Coles started its journey towards higher welfare chicken, less than five per cent of Australian chicken production was approved by the RSPCA. Over 70 per cent of national production now meets this higher welfare standard, as others in the industry and market have followed Coles' lead.

“The RSPCA is proud to support Coles in its goal to provide higher welfare products available to its customers. Coles was the first national supermarket to make the switch to sourcing RSPCA-Approved chicken under its own brand - a decision which has improved the lives of hundreds of millions of meat chickens. Coles is also the only national retailer to stock RSPCA Approved pork and ensure RSPCA-Approved turkey is available at Christmas. The decision by Coles to source a range of RSPCA-Approved products demonstrates a great commitment to improving the lives of farm animals."
Heather Neil, CEO RSPCA Australia

Certified ingredients
All palm oil used in Coles Brand food and drink products is sustainable palm oil. Coles are also progressing the conversion of Coles Brand homecare, health, beauty and baby products to use sustainable palm oil and palm derivatives. To offset the use of palm oil in Coles Brand non-food products, Coles purchase GreenPalm certificates which support sustainable palm oil farmers and processes.

During the year, customer receipts at all Coles Supermarkets, liquor and convenience outlets were certified to the Forest Stewardship Council standard to complement Coles’ ongoing commitment to sustainable paper products. Coles aim is that by 2020 all Coles Brand products will be made with certified timber and paper.

All Coles Brand tea and coffee is now from certified source (UTZ, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance) and by 2020 the aim is to source all Coles Brand chocolate from certified sources.

Ethical sourcing
In July 2016, Coles introduced an Ethical Supplier Policy. While the previous policy covered only high-risk suppliers, the new policy is aimed at ensuring that all Coles Brand suppliers are compliant with its expectations on ethical sourcing.

The internationally recognised platform, SEDEX will provide the mechanism to assess risk in the supply chain under this framework. Suppliers complete an assessment and based on this, they are deemed to be low, medium or high risk. This rating then determines future monitoring and assessment criteria.