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.
www.tescoplc.com (10 January 2020)