Have you considered boycotting Coles?

I have lived in several remote places in which deciding where to do your grocery shopping is not so much a choice but a default. Because there is only one option, whether that is Woolworths or a local store.

Even for people who live in urban or rural environments, options can be limited due to location, circumstances, low mobility, and other factors I haven’t considered. So not everyone has choice.

But lots of people do have a choice, and I am surprised at how many people choose to shop at Coles. Not everyone is as focussed on ethical shopping as I am. But whether you are focussed on it or not, it is still true for everyone what Anna Lappe is quoted as saying: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want”.

Today I want to ask you gently: Have you considered boycotting Coles?

Here are three reasons to boycott Coles:

  1. They screw over farmers

Have you heard of the Milk Price War? In an effort to lure consumers away from Woolworths, Coles brought in $1 milk in January 2011. They only backed down in March this year, a month after Woolworths withdrew from the war. It looked real bad to be paying farmers less for their milk than it cost them to produce it, in the face of farmers suffering massively from a superdrought. And now the supermarkets are all patting themselves on the back for putting the price of milk back up. Paying fairly doesn’t make you a hero.

  1. They produce massive waste and then ask us to pay to deal with it

Have you heard of SecondBite? It’s a charity supported by Coles which deals with their waste products. As in, perfectly edible food that would otherwise go to waste. Last December, I was in LiquorLand (Owned by Coles. I know, hypocritical of me to mention that in this blog post but I’m an activist, not a perfect person) and the cashier asked me to donate to SecondBite. “Lots of families are doing it tough at this time of year, would you consider donating?” She asked. “No,” I said, “Coles should take responsibility for their own waste instead of making a charity do it and then asking me to pay for it!”. To her credit, the young woman said, “Do you know what, I actually agree with you.”

You know who doesn’t produce massive waste? Aldi. I’m not saying they don’t produce any waste at all, and they are certainly not perfect. But they have cost-saving measures, like filling their chip packets all the way up instead of giving us half-full chip packets, and using the same packaging for distribution as for store-front. They don’t overstock their shelves, which means sometimes they don’t have the exact thing you were after. But I don’t mind missing out on buying cacao occasionally (actual example from my life) when I know that they are not wasting food by overstocking. The important thing here is that Aldi is doing it to save money, which they then pass onto the consumer. They are not doing it to be environmentally responsible. This proves that you can have a successful business model, in which reducing unnecessary waste actually saves you money.

  1. They influence you to buy packaged and/or processed food

I once tried to buy whole products at Coles. Pearl barley and looseleaf rooibos tea. I couldn’t find it. I could not find tea that was not already in teabags.

You will have heard of the Gruen Transfer. The popular TV show gets its name from the process of being led from one end of the supermarket to the other. Supermarkets are designed to have essential items in different places, so you walk past the items you don’t need and discover that you do in fact need them, hence spending more money than you planned.

Most of the products at Coles are processed and packaged. This is toxic for the environment and harmful to our health. It is very hard to shop for a nutritious and low waste lifestyle when you are shopping at Coles. Convenience is king and ‘health’ is a game of tricking the consumer into thinking we are making good choices.


So those are three reasons to boycott Coles. I encourage you again to consider a partial or full boycott of Coles. If you still need Coles for some things, maybe you could just buy your fresh produce elsewhere.

Here are some places in Canberra you can shop instead:

  1. Belconnen Markets
  2. Fyshwick Markets
  3. Farmer’s Market at EPIC
  4. ARC Organics (delivers to your door: $45 (small) and $85 boxes of fruit and veg or just veg)
  5. IGA and other independent supermarkets

If you are not in Canberra, maybe have a look online and find out if you have other options available to you.

Thanks for considering boycotting Coles.

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