Comment: Scale can be good

Comment    Grocery   
Comment: Scale can be good
Rebecca Shelley, Group Corporate Affairs Director, Tesco

By Rebecca Shelley, Group Corporate Affairs Director, Tesco 12:41PM - Mon 21st October 2013

Earlier this year we announced that we were committing to play our part in tackling three big issues which affect us all and where we can make a real difference: youth unemployment, healthy choices and food waste. We chose these because they matter:

  • 75 million young people are unemployed globally

  • 65% of our UK customers say that they are not as healthy as they’d like to be

  • Around 1/3 of the world’s food which could have been eaten is lost or wasted

We also chose them because, more than ever before, we understand the responsibilities we have, what is expected of us by our customers and, most importantly, what we can achieve if we do use our scale for good.

There’s no doubt expectations of business have changed. The financial crisis and the global recession had a profound impact on consumers which continues today, even as the economic outlook improves. There’s a sharper appreciation for fairness and business was one of the first to feel the impact. Is business good or bad, are their motives and values in line or at odds with the society they serve? Are they making a positive contribution in all they do? It goes far beyond the concern for corporate social responsibility. A business’s contribution and its values must be clear and unambiguous, and above all sincere.

That is undoubtedly a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. It is clearer than ever before that many of the issues the world faces cannot be solved without business. There are more and more examples of business rising to the challenge and using their scale, their operational expertise and all the other advantages they enjoy to bring about positive change, on their own and in collaboration with others. We are joining this movement.

Let me give one example of using scale to solve a problem. I was impressed by a scheme called ColaLife which aims to distribute treatments like rehydration salts to people in remote areas by using the extensive distribution networks of companies like Coca-Cola.

It is an innovative and impressive use of insight and scale to help deliver medicines to genuinely remote and un-served communities.

We believe there is an opportunity for us to use our size and expertise to really make a difference in overcoming these challenges. It has been six months since we announced our ambition and you can find out about what we’ve been doing here.

In the spirit of wanting to work collaboratively, and as an indication of our commitment to make a difference, we’re being much more open and transparent. For example this half year report outlines independently-assured levels of food waste within our UK operations. We’re the first major UK food retailer to take this step. It’s not an easy one to take, but we’re doing it because it matters. We’re also announcing new measures to reduce food waste, both in the supply chain and also in our customers’ homes. On health we are sharing insights on the makeup of customers’ shopping trips to help us and others understand how to change behaviour more effectively. By sharing this information we’re allowing others to scrutinise us and suggest how we can do things better.

This is still the start of a long journey for us and I’m delighted that we’re able to introduce our new External Advisory panel who will help us along the way. They will inform our thinking, give us their honest assessment of how we’re doing and challenge us to do more. They are a group of genuine international experts and they’ll help us to make sure that we deliver real and lasting social good.

This piece was taken from Tesco's 'Talking Shop' blog
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