Tesco, the biggest British supermarket chain, has joined The Sustainability Consortium (TSC). In doing so, Tesco follows Marks & Spencer to become the second leading British retailing member of this organisation, that aims to drive innovation in consumer product sustainability.
The Sustainable Consumption Institute, a part of the University of Manchester financed by Tesco, has joined the Consortium as an academic member. This Institute researches ways to help households, businesses, governments, charities and NGOs move to more environmentally sustainable living. Tesco is the first high-profile retailer to join TSC since the consortium opened its European headquarters in The Hague early November.
First Wal-Mart, now Tesco, who’s next?
The Sustainability Consortium is originally a Wal-Mart initiative, as the world’s biggest retailer wanted a sustainability index on a product level. In 2009, two American universities founded the consortium as an independent institute, heavily funded by Wal-Mart. Later on, the Dutch Wageningen Universiteit & Research centre became the European academic partner for TSC.
Now Tesco joined the consortium, TSC expects that others will follow: “An important player like Tesco joining the consortium is a huge step forward. We are talking with several important parties, but thus far, there is no other news to report. Just like Tesco, new members want to announce news like this themselves”, says Koen Boone, executive director for TSC in Europe. “What we can say however, is that we do expect other prominent European retailers to join as well.”
Director for Climate change
Tesco makes no secret of its efforts to make operations more sustainable. The retailer has even appointed a ‘director climate change’ in Helen Fleming. “Successful collaboration between leading global businesses – whether they are retailers, wholesalers, suppliers or producers – will go a long way in helping companies reduce their carbon emissions and thereby reduce the carbon footprints of the products we sell”, she says. “We’re proud to be a member of The Consortium and look forward to collaborating with the many other businesses and organizations.”
Bonnie Nixon, executive director of TSC, is happy to see his consortium becoming a truly worldwide organisation with Tesco joining its ranks. “Their expertise and leadership in both the retail and sustainability community will be a great asset as we work towards delivering the science and tools to drive a new generation of sustainable products.”
TesCO2 or green-washing?
Tesco’s sustainability policy focuses on CO2 reduction, to the extent that Tesco has changed its name to “TesCO2” in some stores. The British market leader wants to be completely carbon neutral by 2050 and has started to monitor the complete carbon footprint of over 1,100 products. Moreover, several of its supermarkets in the UK, Thailand and the Czech Republic already have a zero emission of carbon dioxide.
Certain critics however doubt the nature of Tesco’s attempts to reduce CO2 emissions: they claim these attempts are mostly “token gestures” and clear examples of ‘green-washing’.