In July 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 20th January 2020

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 due to not prohibiting GM animal feed despite selling a large range of meat and dairy.

Reference:

www.tescoplc.com (21 July 2020)

In July 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 "Addressing the sustainability challenges in our top 20 products and ingredients." stated "To eliminate forced labour in cotton production, we have banned sourcing from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where state-sanctioned child labour and forced labour are common in cotton production". This committment was also reiterated elsewhere on the website and mention in the company's Modern Slavery Statement 2017. The company had also signed the Responsible Sourcing Network's Uzbekistan pledge but not the Turkmenistan one. However, it was considered to have a clear policy not to source cotton from either of these countries so was not marked down under Human Rights fo this.

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.

Overall, Tesco received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its approach to cotton sourcing.

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 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 July 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)

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)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Tesco Plc Annual Report 2020 which contained information on director remuneration.

It stated that, in the 2019/20 financial year, two directors had received annual payments exceeding £1,000,000, a figure which Ethical Consumer deemed excessive. The highest figure was received by CEO Dave Lewis who received a total of £6,425,000, with a base salary of £1,250,000.

As a result Tesco Plc lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Annual Report 2020 (2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Guardian website titled "Tesco defends £635m dividend payout after coronavirus tax break" and dated 8th April 2020.

It reported that Tesco had paid out £635million in shareholder dividends having received a government tax break of £585million as a result of the global pandemic. It stated: "The Labour peer Andrew Adonis tweeted that it was “absolutely wrong” for Tesco to accept the business rates holiday worth £585m and said the retailer should “pay it back” if it could afford to pay a big dividend to shareholders".
Tesco had also provided comment: "“I firmly believe that we have done the right thing,” said Allan. “The right thing to do in these circumstances was to honour the pledge made to shareholders, particularly given that we have already made considerable efforts to look after our staff."[...] It also had not “taken a penny” from the the taxpayer-backed wage support scheme despite having so many employees off sick, he said: “We didn’t ask for business rates relief, but it is being granted.”"

The company lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Tesco defends £635m dividend payout after coronavirus tax break (8 April 2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Tesco Plc Annual Report which contained a list of subsidiaries and corresponding registered addresses. A number of the addresses were located in jurisdictions which at the time of writing were considered to be tax havens. These included Jersey, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland, Guernsey, Delaware (US), Mauritious, Isle of Man and the Netherlands.
A number of the entities registered in these locations were also considered to be high risk company types for the likely use of tax avoidance strategies. These included:
Arena (Jersey) Management Limited - Management company in Jersey
Cheshunt Holdings Guernsey Limited - Holding company in Guernsey
China Property Holdings (HK) Limited - Holding company in Hong Kong
R.J.D. Holdings Unlimited Company - Holding company in Ireland
Tesco Holdings B.V - Holding company in the Netherlands

An internet search using the search terms “Tesco tax policy statement country” found no country-by-country financial information or reporting (CBCR). The company website did contain some mention of CBCR but did not appear to have made this publicly available. A tax policy was found (www.tescoplc.com/about/how-we-do-business/our-approach-to-tax). It stated: "Responsibility for tax is clearly defined for each of the territories in which we operate and our approach to tax in each is closely monitored to ensure that our tax principles are applied consistently across all of these territories in line with our Code of Business Conduct. This includes a zero-tolerance approach to tax evasion whether carried out by an employee, or a business partner acting for us, or on our behalf [...] Our tax obligations, and therefore our tax contribution, are aligned with the commercial and economic activity of our operations. Tax is considered in all significant business decisions but we do not undertake any transactions for the sole purpose of realising tax savings. We focus on delivering accurate tax returns and determining the correct tax treatment across all of our business transactions, to ensure we pay the right amount of tax at the right time, in accordance with the tax laws of the territories in which we operate".
This was not considered to be a clear enough statement that the company did not engage in tax avoidance activities nor was there any narrative explanation provided as to the purpose of each entity located in a tax haven and why it was not being used for tax minimisation.
Given that Tesco Plc had two or more high risk subsidiaries in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer's tax haven list and no country-by-country financial information, nor adequate policy statement and narrative explanation, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies and lost a full mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

Annual Report 2020 (2020)