"Don't Discount Our Future" Campaign Targets Trader Joe's Cocoa Sourcing and Climate-Damaging Refrigeration

family in supermarket

WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 10, 2020 – Trader Joe’s ranks poorly among U.S. grocery stores when it comes to both ethical chocolate (in terms of child labor and deforestation concerns) and super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. A new push by Green America and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) tackles both issues in a bid to hold the popular food retailer accountable.

The new Don’t Discount Our Future, Trader Joe’s campaign urges the national grocery store chain to improve its sourcing for cocoa products and use of HFCs. The retailer received one of the worst scores on Green America’s Chocolate Retailer Scorecard, and the lowest score on the EIA’s Climate-Friendly Supermarket Scorecard on refrigerants.  

Trader Joe’s shares little information about how it is addressing the risk of child labor and deforestation in the chocolate from which it profits. The campaign calls on Trader Joe’s to publicly disclose its chocolate supply chain; require all cocoa suppliers sourcing out of West Africa to use a child labor monitoring and remediation system; disclose how it is supporting efforts to pay cocoa farmers a living income; and commit to no deforestation by 2022 throughout its entire supply chain.

“There are over one million children in West Africa experiencing child labor in cocoa growing, and cocoa farmers make less than $1 per day,” said Charlotte Tate, Green America’s Labor Campaigns director. “In order to end child labor in cocoa, ALL companies, including grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, must demonstrate that they are taking action to address the injustices in cocoa supply chains.”

This announcement also builds on Green America’s Cool It campaign and EIA’s Climate-Friendly Supermarkets platform, which tackle the super-pollutant HFC greenhouse gases, used as refrigerants. HFCs have thousands of times the global warming potential of CO2. 

“Trader Joe’s has made a fortune off its ‘wholesome’ branding but continues to fail to do its part on addressing the threats of climate destruction and labor abuse,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA Climate Campaign lead. “Our climate is in crisis and Trader Joe’s not only has no sustainable cooling policy, but also refuses to engage with those of us who can help. Trader Joe’s must prioritize swift action to eliminate the use of HFCs in all new stores and establish company-wide programs to reduce their overall cooling footprint.”

The Green America/EIA campaign is calling on Trader Joe’s to phase out HFCs from all its locations by 2030 and to use only ultra-low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants in new builds and retrofits, as well as issue annual sustainability reports detailing progress, among other refrigerant management actions.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency entered into a 2016 settlement with Trader Joe’s over the company’s alleged Clean Air Act violations related to refrigerant leaks that impacted the climate and depleted the ozone layer, and there is no information from the company about making improvements on this issue.

“Companies must be held accountable for their emissions that are escalating the climate crisis, and improving refrigerant management is a crucial part of that process,” said Beth Porter, Green America’s Climate Campaigns director. “Trader Joe’s has a dismal record on leaking highly potent gases and neglects to follow the most basic practice of releasing an annual sustainability report – this doesn’t inspire confidence in the company’s progress behind the scenes.”

EIA’s scorecard shows other major supermarket chains, such as ALDI US and Target, have demonstrated progress on reducing climate impacts of refrigeration. In contrast, Trader Joe’s has not disclosed whether they have installed any HFC-free refrigerant systems, nor has it shown progress on reducing its historically high leak rate of refrigerant gases.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin for Green America, (703) 276-3255, or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com; and Lindsay Moran, for Environmental Investigation Agency, lmoran@eia-global.org.

ABOUT GREEN AMERICA

Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses, investors, and consumers to solve today’s social and environmental problems. http://www.GreenAmerica.org  

ABOUT EIA

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an independent non-profit campaigning organization dedicated to identifying, investigating, and implementing solutions to protect endangered wildlife, forests, and the global climate. EIA Climate campaign is working to eliminate powerful greenhouse gases and improve energy efficiency in the cooling sector, and expose related illicit trade to campaign for new policies, improved governance, and more effective enforcement. www.eia-global.org.