Tesco: not green enough?

When Tesco launched a major green initiative in January, in which it promised to measure its carbon footprint as part of a campaign to address climate change, it probably hoped to pre-empt objections from the environmental lobby and win a few new friends with its green credentials.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Unfortunately, Christian Aid wasn’t one of them. The development charity has accused Tesco of grossly misrepresenting its carbon footprint because it doesn’t include the emissions of its customers and suppliers. In practice, it says, this means Tesco’s true footprint is actually 12 times bigger than the retailer makes out.

Not that Tesco has exactly been underhand with its definitions. The company’s website explicitly refers to its “direct” carbon footprint – a definition that is in line with industry and international standards, it insists. However it also acknowledges its role in reducing its indirect carbon footprint “by helping customers and suppliers reduce their emissions too”.

In some ways Tesco can’t win. Although its CSR policies compare favourably to most in the corporate world, initiatives like this week’s deal to pay an extra 5.5p per litre to its milk farmers are usually dismissed as PR stunts designed to impress the Competition Commission (not that MT would ever be so cynical, of course).

On the other hand, it’s going to be pretty hard for Tesco to maintain its green credentials as it aggressively pursues growth overseas. In addition to its expansion plans in Eastern Europe and Asia, it is investing hundreds of millions on cracking America through a chain of mini-supermarkets in California and Nevada. Unless Sir Terry Leahy is planning on cycling along Interstate 80 to check out his new empire, that’s going to do some serious damage to Tesco’s carbon footprint.

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