Carrefour Sells Illegal Goods to Influence Government Regulations

Many companies have begun examining their supply chains, creating  traceability maps and sharing toolkits for local farmers to advance their practices and ensure sustainability. As supply-chain transparency becomes a topic of discussion among consumers, more companies are inviting their clients to be active participants in that sustainability journey. Recently, one French supermarket chain harnessed today's activist attitude to challenge what it believes is an antiquated and harmful regulation to provide its patrons with more options while supporting agricultural diversity.

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More than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared, leaving farmers with pricier seed options and grocers and consumers with a lack of variety. French supermarket Carrefour defied Europe's Official Catalogue of Authorized Species regulations, under which 97 percent of seeds have been deemed illegal – enticing consumers to learn more about the foods they can't consume. The grocery chain launched the "Black Supermarket" within its own stores, showcasing and selling 600 varieties of illegal produce to curious consumers in the hopes of re-branding these foods and the farmers who grow them as champions of biodiversity. After learning more about these "behind-the-scenes" limitations and buying nearly 70 tons of illegal produce, 85,000 consumers signed a petition to change the law. Carrefour also leveraged its size and established brand name to support illegal producers by signing five-year supply contracts with them. After risking legal repercussions, Carrefour's stunt paid off and the European Parliament authorized the sale and cultivation of certain illegal seeds.

In today's political landscape, 63 percent of consumers hope that businesses will take the lead on moving certain social and environmental issues forward. And while brands can spearhead an initiative, they need the support and action of informed and empowered consumers to ensure these efforts gain momentum and make an impact on the community. Despite the outright illegality of this campaign, Carrefour's leadership position within the food industry and support from 85,000 consumers allowed it to challenge regulations and advance food quality.