Shelf Life

Students examine the role of supermarkets in the international food industry and write a letter of persuasion for them to stock Fairtrade.

Skills Focus
Teamwork, analysis, written communication, using language for effect, role play.

This session can also be linked to the following KS4 exam specification themes

  • AQA Business and Economics (stakeholders)
  • Edexcel Business Studies (effects of business decisions on stakeholders, business ethics, role of multi-nationals in the position of developing countries, costs and benefits of international trade to LEDCs)
  • AQA English Language (write non-fiction texts for a variety of audiences and purposes)

Starter: Consider the scale and impact of supermarket special offers through looking at promotional leaflets.

Collect promotional leaflets from supermarkets and distribute them amongst students (you could ask them to collect their own a few weeks previously). Students should work in pairs to look through the leaflets and make a note of the kind of special offers they are advertising. Calculate how much money the supermarket would ‘lose’ if customers bought one of every offer in the leaflet. Discuss as a class whether they think this loss is absorbed by the supermarket or passed on. Who is it passed on to?

Main Activity: Learn about supermarket and producer relations, and write a letter of persuasion to encourage supermarkets to trade fairly.

Read the briefing paper on supermarkets as a class. Discuss the following points:

  • In which ways do supermarkets put pressure on producers?
  • Why can’t producers simply refuse to sell to supermarkets?
  • How does fair trade help the producers?
  • Do supermarkets support fair trade? Why or why not?
  • How can we, as consumers, support fair trade?

Students should then re-read the briefing paper on their own, highlighting the key information. They should use this, and other information from personal research (perhaps set as homework before the lesson) to write a letter to supermarket Chief Executives, persuading them to either stock more Fairtrade products or ensure that their other products are traded fairly.

You may wish to recap how to write a letter of persuasion as a class before setting them off on the task. Key elements students will need to be aware of in writing persuasively are:

  • Always be aware of who you’re writing to – you would use different language in a letter to a Chief Executive than you would to a relative, for example. Be polite but state the facts and your opinion in an obvious way.
  • Mention things you both agree on, such as “maintaining a positive brand reputation amongst customers is very important” in order to keep them ‘on side’.
  • Make clear and to-the-point arguments, stating what the problem is, why the supermarket should help and how they can do it. This makes it easy for the Chief Executive to see what you are asking for and why.
  • Use evidence and statistics to back up your argument, such as “the UK Fairtrade market is doubling in value every two years (Fairtrade Foundation)” – making sure that the statistics are from a reputable place and that you identify where in brackets after the quote
  • Write in the present tense to show that the issue is important here and now – not just in the past or future.

Plenary: Role play of pro and counter fair trade arguments.

Imagine that you (the teacher) are the Chief Executive of a large supermarket. Present some counter-arguments to selling fairly traded products to the class and ask students to argue against your point in one sentence, beginning with ‘but…’.

For example:

Teacher: “I don’t want to sell Fairtrade products because people won’t buy as many of my own-brand products.”

Student 1: “But… you may attract new customers.”

Student 2: “But… you could make the same profit margin on both products.”

There are many counter-arguments you could use, and a few of the most common are listed below:

  • “Fairtrade products are too expensive; my customers won’t want to buy them” – based on the common misconception that Fairtrade always costs more.
  • “In these difficult times, people just want cheap – they don’t care about where it comes from” – based on the idea that British consumers only care about the price, but actually ethical consumption and the UK Fairtrade market is growing.
  • “Fairtrade doesn't really do anything” – based on the misnomer that Fairtrade is a marketing ploy and has no real impact. See our producer stories for some counter arguments.