New grocery code leaves critics hungry

The grocery code of conduct that would govern the actions of Canada’s grocers and their suppliers is in its final draft, but it’s still leaving their top critics hungry for more.

Driving the news: According to documents obtained by The Canadian Press, the final draft includes an obligation to “good faith” negotiations, a process to resolve disputes, and the ability to sanction systemic violators of the code.

Yes, but: The draft doesn’t have mechanisms to fine grocers and suppliers that fail to live up to the code, instead relying on publicly shaming those practicing “consistent bad behaviour.” 

  • “It has teeth,” Michael Graydon, a co-chair of the committee overseeing the development of the code, said, “Are they as sharp as some may like? Maybe not.” 

Even if the code did have a method for implementing fines, the code is voluntary anyway, meaning that there’s no governmental body to actually enforce them if need be.

  • “It just doesn’t go far enough,” food researcher Sylvain Charlebois told Toronto Star, I don’t believe a big grocer… would pay a fine [from a] voluntary, industry-led code.”

Why it matters: While the jury’s still out on whether or not grocers have been practicing greedflation, suppliers have been adamant that big grocers have been jacking up prices despite fewer cost-increase requests. Grocers have said it’s the other way around, with Loblaw claiming that suppliers increased the costs of its products by ~$1 billion this year.

Bottom line: A code of conduct could stop all this fingerpointing… if anyone follows it.—QH