Purpose-led products: Ocado launches a dedicated aisle for B-Corp brands

Online supermarket Ocado has launched a dedicated virtual 'aisle' showcasing products from B-Corp certified brands, as customers increasingly look for more sustainable groceries.

Ocado trialled a dedicated virtual shelf for B-Corp products two years ago, with then-supply partner Waitrose. Image: Ocado 

Ocado trialled a dedicated virtual shelf for B-Corp products two years ago, with then-supply partner Waitrose. Image: Ocado 

The virtual aisle launched today (16 February) and features more than 1,100 products from more than 35 brands. Brands showcased include Ella’s Kitchen, Innocent, Method, Charlie Bigham’s, Pip & Nut, Teapigs, PROPER, Alpro, Ben & Jerry’s and Cheeky Panda.

For brands to be certified as a B-Corp, they have to complete an in-depth assessment with metrics relating to governance, worker treatment, community sustainability and environmental impact. They must also provide updated information at least every three years to retain B-Corp certification. As such, the standard is one of the most popular as a marker of a purpose-led brand.

Ocado claims that it now stocks the largest collection of B-Corp certified products of any major British grocery retailer. The firm’s head of sustainability Jo West said the decision to launch a dedicated virtual aisle was based around “making greener choices easier for Ocado customers”. Notably, the business already had an ‘Eco Shop’ website function, enabling shoppers to search for products tagged as plastic-free or vegan.

Aisle be there

Several pieces of research to have been published in recent months have concluded that customers are looking to shop with brands that have a positive social or environmental impact. A 2020 survey from GlobalData found that 45% of shoppers are actively searching for sustainable products.

In response to these trends, many businesses are changing either the products they stock or the ways in which they are displayed. On the former, Asos delisted BooHoo over allegations of poor worker pay and treatment in supply chains, as part of a new set of sustainability and ethics requirements. Zalando is due to follow suit. In brick-and-mortar retail, several major supermarkets have warned third-party brands that they will be delisted unless they align with in-house packaging commitments, including Tesco and Aldi.

On the latter, virtual ‘aisles’ are becoming more common. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, recently launched a 'Climate Pledge Friendly' filter for shoppers in Europe. The feature will enable consumers to filter out beauty, fashion, grocery, household and office products, as well as electronics, which purport to have a lower environmental footprint. Only products which have met certain sustainability certifications will be included.

Critics of the ‘aisle’ approach, however, have argued that some brands use it as a greenwashing tool. A common question posed at high-street fashion brands is why the requirements needed to badge a product as ‘Conscious’ (H&M) or ‘Join Life’ (Inditex) are not applied across the business.

Sarah George  


certification | ethics | Retail | Corporate Social Responsibility


CSR & ethics | New business models

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