Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Campaign group labels Tesco 'a green chameleon'

Tescopoly has greeted the supermarket's 10-point community plan with a large dose of cynicism, writes Anita Pati.

Tesco has been branded a "green chameleon" by voluntary organisations after the supermarket giant announced plans to be more socially responsible.

Vicki Hird, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth and a spokeswoman for the campaign group Tescopoly, made the accusation in response to the supermarket's 10-point community plan.

The plan includes sponsoring youth football and offering biodegradable carrier bags. But Hird said the company's plans to extend its number of 'express' outlets by 130 this year outweighed any benefits because of the extra energy they would use and the harmful effects they would have on local retailers.

"Any step is good, but we're quite cynical," she said. "This is showing Tesco to be a green chameleon."

John Coventry, a spokesman for War on Want, said: "Tesco knows that it needs to change to keep in step with the public opinion that supermarket dominance is not good for local communities and the environment."

Tesco unveiled its community plan the day after it and other supermarkets were referred to the Competition Commission because of their perceived dominance of the market.

Sandra Bell, supermarkets campaigner at Friends of the Earth, confirmed it would be submitting evidence to the commission to "take a wider view of consumer benefits than simply cheap food".

However, Tesco has found voluntary sector support from Will Hutton, chief executive of the Work Foundation. "We hope this programme acts as a starting point for the development of new corporate sustainability initiatives," he said.

Tesco, whose annual profits leapt 17 per cent to £2.2bn in April, chose to announce the details of its community plan at the Work Foundation.

The company also announced brief details of two charity partnerships.

The British Red Cross will be its charity of the year for 2007, and it will also be fostering links with the Pre-School Learning Alliance.

Hird branded the partnership with the British Red Cross a Tesco "PR exercise", but acknowledged that it could bring benefits. "There is a link between the Red Cross ethos of helping people's living conditions and the health of the workers suffering as a result of Tesco's working practices, so this is an opportunity to look at its supply chains," she said. She added that Friends of the Earth would not link up with Tesco under any circumstances.

A spokeswoman for Tesco said: "It is not just about the rhetoric. We are talking about practical changes backed by specific targets and timelines.

Many of these initiatives began years ago at Tesco - we know that actions speak louder than words."

anita.pati@haynet.com

KEY POINTS

- Tescopoly has branded Tesco a "green chameleon"

- The supermarket published a 10-point community plan that includes a £100m sustainable technology fund and a pledge to make all carrier bags recyclable by September

- Will Hutton of the Work Foundation cautiously welcomed the supermarket scheme despite criticism from elsewhere in the sector

- Tesco, whose annual profits leapt 17 per cent to £2.2bn in April, has also announced charity partnerships with the British Red Cross and the Pre-School Learning Alliance.

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