In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Tesco PLC’s website for the company's cotton sourcing policy.

The company stated on a Sustainable Fabrics page: "Our aim is to have 100% of the cotton we use in all Tesco products to be sourced sustainably (Better Cotton, organic and recycled) by 2025." Regarding its clothing brand F&F it said that in its "2018 ranges 88% of the cotton we sourced was produced sustainably, the majority through the Better Cotton Initiative."

A page titled Human Rights (F&F) was found that discussed human rights and eliminating forced labour in the cotton industry. This stated: ‘since 2007 Tesco and F&F asked suppliers not to source cotton from Uzbekistan for any of our products, and we asked that the source of raw cotton used in products is identified. We were one of the first retailers to ban the use of Uzbek cotton in the supply chain. In 2014, we were proud to solidify our commitment by signing up to the Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN) cotton pledge’.

The company provided Ethical Consumer with a copy of its 'Cotton Sourcing Requirements' document in February 2017. This stated: "Suppliers must ensure that cotton sourced from Uzbekistan is not used in Tesco and F&F products... and must sign the letter sent together with these requirements as a commitment to this effect. Suppliers/Sites should make every effort to communicate our commitment to their supply chain, and we encourage you to ask your suppliers to commit to you in writing."

Tesco was considered to have positive policy addressing Uzbek cotton and was not marked down for workers' rights abuses for the likelihood of forced labour in its supply chain.

The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company also lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Reference:

www.tescoplc.com (10 January 2020)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Tesco PLC’s website for the company's policy on the use of genetically modified ingredients and animal feed. A page was viewed called ‘Our approach to genetically modified ingredients’, updated 01/02/2019.

It stated ‘We do not allow the use of GM ingredients in Tesco branded products. Any non-Tesco branded products which contain GM material are clearly labelled in accordance with EU legislation so customers can make informed choices about the products they buy.
We do not prohibit the use of GM feed in the production of our non-organic meat, eggs and milk. We offer an organic range for those customers who prefer to avoid products from animals who may have had GM feed. Animals used to produce all our own-brand organic range of meat, eggs and milk are reared on non-GM feed’.

Tesco PLC lost half a mark under the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

www.tescoplc.com (10 January 2020)

In April 2018 a search was made of the Tesco website tesco.com. It was found that the company sold a rugby ball that was made 'With a special Nanotechnology rubber compound'.
In Ethical Consumer magazine issue 119, the following was stated: “According to Jim Thomas of ETC Group, the European Commission has a view that the toxicology of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) can be assessed, but has a provisional view that the toxicology of nanomaterials cannot be assessed using traditional methods. This provisional view is based on the work of the highest EU body on toxicology, which spent a year researching whether existing toxicology methods were appropriate for assessing nanomaterials. Their answer was basically 'no', but what little toxicology there already is on the subject tells us that 'there is already much more evidence for the toxicity of nanoparticles than, for example, GMOs which have been under scrutiny far longer (although toxicity varies from nanoparticle to nanoparticle, as it does from GMO to GMO)'.
This was reference was for infomation only.

Reference:

www.tesco.com (2 February 2018)

An investigation by The Times published on April 15 2017 disclosed that FTSE 100 groups had spent more than £24 million on lobbying in Brussels and about £335,000 funding all-party parliamentary groups in Westminster. The research examined political spending between January 2015 to March 2017.
Less than £10,000 of identified political and lobbying spending in the EU was disclosed to shareholders in the companies’ recent annual reports.

According to the report Tesco spent 100,000 euros on EU lobbying. The company did not donate to all-party parliamentary groups.
When contacted, the company replied: “Our annual report accurately reflects our political donations. Tesco is an apolitical organisation and does not make any political donations. The 100,000 euro figure mentioned incorporates staffing costs for a colleague who works on international government relations, including the EU, and subscriptions to two EU trade associations.”

Reference:

Big business spends £25m on lobbying politicians (15 April 2017)

According to the organisation's website www.eurocommerce.eu, viewed by Ethical Consumer in January 2020, Tesco was a member of Eurocommerce. This was regarded by Ethical Consumer as an international corporate lobby group which exerted undue corporate influence on policy-makers in favour of market solutions that were potentially detrimental to the environment and human rights. The company lost half a mark under Political Activities.

Reference:

Eurocommerce members list (25 September 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Tesco Mobile website, which stated, "We share O2’s network". O2 is owned by Telefónica.

In August 2019, Telefónica lost full marks under the following categories: Habitats and Resources, Human Rights, Workers Rights, Political Activities, Anti-Social Finance.

Tesco mobile therefore lost half a mark in those categories for having a licensing relationship with the company.

Reference:

www.tescomobile.com (11 January 2020)

As there was no more recent annual report available when searched in January 2020, no update has been made to this reference. In July 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed Tesco's list of subsidiaries in its Annual Report 2019. This showed that the company had a number of subsidiaries in jurisdictions considered by Ethical Consumer to be tax havens at the time of writing. Of these, at least four were considered to be high risk company types for likely use of tax avoidance:
- Arena (Jersey) Management Limited in Jersey
- Booker Cyprus Limited in Cyprus
- Cheshunt Holdings Guernsey Limited in Guernsey
- China Property Holdings (HK) Limited in Hong Kong

In August 2019 Tesco contacted Ethical Consumer by phone and stated that Booker Cyprus Limited in Cyprus and China Property Holdings (HK) Limited in Hong Kong were in the process of liquidation. These companies were therefore no longer considered a risk.

The company also sent an email in August clarifying the company's tax position:

“We derive no tax benefit from these entities and are in the process of liquidating two of them. Tesco is a responsible taxpayer and one of the most significant tax contributors in the UK, paying and collecting a total of £5.2bn in taxes in 2018/19. As an international business, we recognise the importance of tax payments across the markets we operate in and pay the right amount of tax in all territories.”

Although the company stated that two of the subsidiaries were in the process of liquidation, and it provided a statment stating it was a responsible tax payer, the company still held at least two high-risk subsidiaries located in Ethical Consumer's current list of tax havens. No adequate explanation was provided for the purpose of these companies and the company did not provide publicly disclosed country-by-country reporting. For this reason the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies.

Reference:

AR 2019 (2019)

On 28th March 2017 it was reported on the BBC news website that Tesco had agreed to pay £129m in fines to avoid prosecution for overstating its profits in 2014.
According to the article, "Its subsidiary, Tesco Stores Ltd, reached what's known as a deferred prosecution agreement with the Serious Fraud Office after a two-year probe." The company was said to have overstated its profits by £326 million.
The company therefore lost a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Tesco fined £129m for overstating profits (28 March 2017)