Now I’m not talking here about Tesco becoming telepathic or Asda having the ability to fly. I’m talking Super Powers in the sense of World War II and supremacy on the scale of America or Russia.
Everyone knows the names of the big Supermarket chains, and even the smaller ones, but that’s by the by. Most of us depend on (or think we do) at least one of these giants to provide our food, fuel our cars, replace electrical goods when they decide they have had enough of this cruel world, and even protect us against all manner of things with house, car and travel insurance to name but a few.
So. Here is my big question. In a world where resources are running out, global warming is looming on the horizon, and people’s awareness of issues such as animal welfare, food miles and genetic modification are at a level where they want to see action and action fast, couldn’t somebody with the publicly known wealth of an organisation like Tesco or Asda, or even some of the oil companies to broaden the argument, use some of their wealth to help the rest of us? Let’s face it, I know it’s not going to happen because it can’t, but if everybody stopped buying from supermarkets, their profit would fall fast. They have only made it because of us.
Sainsbury’s were known to be struggling a few years back. With the help of some good strategists and Jamie Oliver in tow, they turned it around… but if people hadn’t bought into it, things could have played out very differently.
And OK, Sainsbury’s are doing better than some on the environment front. Their tinned tuna has been found to be the most environmentally friendly available in shops in a recent Greenpeace survey (but they could still do better); they have removed carrier bags from the end of their tills and have a pretty extensive organic range. Their energy is supplied by Ecotricity – the only energy company actively building new renewable energy sites and they are the UK’s biggest retailer of Fair Trade goods. But could they do more?
Tesco recently announced a 10% growth in their profits and therefore a share increase, despite a troubled economy and ever increasing ‘credit crunch’. They are known to have released a new range of 400 new products aiming to help with the current pressures of high cost living. The question I want an answer to is how many of these products are supporting better animal welfare? How many are produced at farms where they have been working with farmers to find alternatives to drenching the land in chemicals and pesticides?
Most people are aware that the reason food became cheaper is because it became cheaper to produce. Cheaper for many reasons that are not good reasons and do not use practices that we like to think about. Most of us prefer not to think about the conditions in which our cheap food is produced because it upsets and sickens us. So all I can say at this point is that I hope Tesco’s conscience was present and operating fully when they settled upon these 400 products, because the way to beat the credit crunch is most certainly not by exploiting farmers, suppliers and the earth in the same fashion as they have been over the last decades.
Dare we say it, Tesco refused point blank to support the ‘Chicken Out’ campaign headed by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall this year. Here is a prime example of where a big corporation like Tesco could have made a huge difference, not only to the lives and welfare of thousands of chickens, but also to the health of the nation. At the end of the day, people can only buy broiler house chickens because they’re sitting on the shelves. And who knows, it may even have helped ease some of the criticism that gets fired in Tesco’s direction about their environmental attitude and whether their ‘green’ campaigns are in place because they care, or because it makes people think they care.
Either way, I believe it is the smaller things that make the difference in the long run. If every business making a substantial annual profit was to make commitments to the planet and the people of the world, I think they could well make a big contribution to making it a better place to live.
Some already try, some could try harder. They know who they are…