A good neighbour and a 'green' friend: Tesco goes after hearts as well as wallets

Supermarket behemoth Tesco, the whipping boy of the chattering classes, is hitting back with a charm offensive encompassing everything from renewable energy to a pledge to start listening more.

The chain has become a target for campaigners who accuse it of squeezing suppliers, contributing to "cloned" high streets and leaving small stores unable to compete while its profits and sales soar. Tesco, which has a 30 per cent market share, last month unveiled full-year profits of £2.2bn.

But chief executive Sir Terry Leahy has started a fightback. His first step was unveiling a £100m fund to spend on sustainable environmental technology. This will include looking at in-store lighting powered by wind turbines, and building "green" shops.

And his latest move is a 10-point action plan aimed at turning Tesco into a "better neighbour". Speaking at the Work Foundation think-tank, Sir Terry pledged to halve the average energy used in Tesco buildings by 2010, to make carrier bags bio- degradable and cut the use of bags by a quarter. And from next year, he says local communities will be consulted before new stores are built. He also promised to reduce deliveries to Tesco Express stores to stop disturbing small neighbourhoods and to stock more local produce.

Sir Terry said the plan was not "high-blown rhetoric but solid, practical Tesco changes".

"It's a mixture of necessity and responsibility," said Clive Black, retail analyst at brokers Shore Capital. "I'm sure Tesco would be the first to say it should and could do more."

Tesco will also have witnessed how a dislike of big retailers can escalate. Asda's US parent, Wal-Mart, has long been criticised for its working practices and last Friday a damning film was released. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price accuses the chain of spying on staff to ensure they don't join unions, paying low wages and crushing smaller stores.

"There's a very slick and powerful lobby against big business [in the UK] and Tesco is absolutely right in seeking to address that," said Richard Hyman, chairman of retail consultancy Verdict.

"One way or another, it's about education. It's about addressing the fact that a lot of people in Britain, if you tell them a business has made a profit of more than £2bn, their natural reaction is to think they must somehow be getting ripped off."

Not everyone is convinced by Tesco's reincarnation. Rival retailers point out that they have been working on similar initiatives for years. J Sainsbury, for example, launched its first "green" store in 1999 and has cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent since 2000. Cynics are also dubious about the timing, with the chain unveiling its new image alongside record profits and the supermarket sector's referral to the Competition Commission.

Mr Black added that many of the moves made economic sense - particularly, given the high oil price, the pledges to cut energy consumption and find alternative sources.

But a Tesco spokesman insisted it was not a "knee jerk" reaction. "They are very real, practical things. It's not grandstanding. We have done these things for many years but now we're driving it a step further.

"If it has the effect of convin- cing critics that what they are saying is wrong, then great, but it's not the reason we're doing it."

And Mr Black argued that the British shopper's apparent dislike of Tesco may have been overplayed. "What is the real public perception? People shop there and they have a choice of where to shop. I would argue that the average woman in Coventry or the average man in Rotherham thinks Tesco is all right."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003