Price war - what is it good for?

It looks like the big supermarkets are still struggling to walk the walk when it comes to CSR. They may talk a good game, reducing the number of plastic bags for example, but competition watchdogs are considering sending staff into the offices of Tesco and Asda looking for evidence that the supermarkets have been abusing their suppliers. This only a week after it was revealed that Buglarian workers in Cornwall were forced to scavenge for food while working on a farm that supplied goods to Tesco and Morrisons.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

The Competition Commission has also ordered Asda and Tesco to hand over all internal emails and other documents sent and received during five weeks in June and July. Someone's going to be in for a late night at the office - for Asda's correspondence alone it could mean trawling through 11m messages.

The Commission has apparently unearthed evidence of buyers getting heavy with suppliers as the price war hotted up, threatening to pull their products off the shelves if they didn't meet the supermarkets' demands. It's a window into a famously shady battle, a war that may work to the benefit of consumers at the checkout, but that results in suppliers getting unsustainably low prices for their produce, and foreign workers toiling away in some nasty conditions.

It may therefore come as no surprise to learn that the big three - Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's - are all currently on the lookout for CSR directors. Whoever takes the jobs could have a busy time of it next month, when the Competition Commission is due to reveal the findings of its report into the way the big grocers operate.

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