In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Tesco Plc website for an environmental report or policy. Ethical Consumer viewed the company's list of policies and downloaded its Little Helps Plan Report 2019/20.

An environmental policy was deemed necessary to report on a company's environmental performance and set targets for reducing its impacts in the future. A strong policy would include two future, quantified environmental targets, demonstration by the company that it had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts, be dated within two years and have its environmental data independently verified.

Its Little Helps Plan covered four main pillars: Climate Change, Agriculture, Marine and Forests. Tesco had policies on the following environmental issues: packaging, pesticides, carbon, energy and the sourcing of beef, soy, seafood, palm oil, timber and cotton. The company also had addressed some issues around toxic chemicals in relation to its F&F clothing brand. However, as the company had received worst ratings for toxic chemicals for its own brand cosmetics/personal care and electronics it was not considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of its main impacts.

Tesco had a number of targets including:
Source 65% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 100% by 2030
Achieve zero net deforestation in our sourcing of raw materials by 2025 (This included a target for all wood, paper and timber to be FSC/PEFC certified or from recycled sources by 2020).
Halve packaging weight by 2025 (2007 baseline)
Halve food waste in our own operations by 2030 (2013/14 baseline)

The company's Annual Report had carbon and food waste data verified by KPMG, however, no mention of independant verification was found in the Little Helps Plan Report despite it providing performance data on a broad range of environmental issues. It was therefore not considered to have a fully verified environmental report.

As Tesco had a report dated within two year and had at least two adaquate environmental reduction targets, it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting and lost half a mark in this category.


LHP Report 2019/20 (2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Tesco website for information on how the company managed its climate impacts, especially in relation to carbon. Ethical Consumer downloaded the "Little Helps Plan Report 2019/20" and Tesco's Annual Report 2020. Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:

For the company to discuss its areas of climate impact, and to discuss plausible ways it has cut them in the past, and ways that it will cut them in the future.

For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding it’s climate actions, and to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place.

For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company), and to go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).

For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.

The Annual Report stated "We are on track to reduce absolute carbon emissions from our operations from 2015/16 levels by 35% by 2020, 60% by 2025 and 100% by 2050. To help us meet these targets, we have committed to source 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030". Tesco was considered to have adequate carbon reduction targets. It Little Helps Plan report also stated that it had 2030 reduction target of 85%.

Tesco's 'Little Helps Plan' stated "In 2019/20 we reduced our absolute carbon emissions (market-based) across the Group by 37% to 2.16million tCO2e, achieving our 2020 target of 35% absolute carbon reduction from our operations compared to our 2015/16 baseline". It stated: "In order to meet these stretching targets, we prioritised the biggest emissions hotspots in our operations". It outlined these as electricity and heating; refrigeration; and transportation/distribution. It provided further detail on steps it was taking to reduce the emissions from each of these areas. It also mentioned supply chain emissions and had targets for reducing emissions here. For agriculture these were a reduction of 7%, 12% and 15% by the years 2020, 2025 and 2030 respectively, however it stated the baseline would be established in 2020/21. For food manufacturing and production sites its target reductions were 7%, 20% and 35% for the same year with a baseline of 2015/16. Tesco also stated that it was committed to source 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030 as part of its plan to reduce emissions.
While Tesco was clearly making steps to reduce its carbon emissions it was also a petrol retailer which was considered a high climate impact sector and Tesco did not appear to have any discussion in relation to this in its Annual Report or Little Helps Plan. It was therefore not considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of how to address its specific climate impacts. The report also made no mention of its banking subsidiary and related climate impacts.

Tesco was reporting on its scope 1 and 2 CO2e emissions in its Annual Report. For scope 2 it provided data using both the market-based and location-based methods.

The company also reported on scope 3 emissions but a webpage titled "Method for calculating our carbon footprint" described these as "Under Scope 3 emissions we report business travel and emissions from distribution arranged by Tesco but provided by third parties (including secondary distribution globally and emissions from primary distribution in the UK). We include primary distribution for the UK only as we have a greater influence over how products are delivered to our distribution centres than in the rest of the Tesco Group. Business travel includes travel by air, rail, taxi and short-term hire car. Additionally, Scope 3 emissions include transmission and distribution impacts of electricity and heat supply and well-to-tank embodied impacts of fuel". Ethical Consumer expected scope 3 reporting to cover emissions from at least tier one suppliers.


LHP Report 2019/20 (2020)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Tesco Plc’s website for information about its use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). No updated information could be found, other than a mention of measuring "emissions from refrigerant gas leakage from systems in our stores or our vehicles".

Tesco had previously performed quite well in the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)'s 2014 study. It had:
- rolled out natural refrigerants across 194 systems (a 30 per cent increase since the previous year), including 63 in Eastern Europe and 13 Asia
- planned to extend commitment to use [less?] CO2 across Europe
- In UK, 50 per cent of Express stores and over half of all new Metro stores had doors on fridges. Outside UK and China, 71 per cent of stores have doors on fridges
- All distribution centres were HFC-free

However, as no up-to-date policy could be found and no recent data was found on the company's progress towards removing HFCs, the company lost a full mark under climate change.

In October 2014 EIA released it 6th and final report called Chilling Facts: Closing the doors on HFCs. The report provided research into the growing uptake of natural refrigerants among some of the world's leading retailers, reflecting a market shift towards climate-friendly refrigeration in the supermarket sector. According to the report hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the world's fastest growing source of man-made emissions, rising at an alarming rate of 10-15 per cent a year. EIA considered the adaptation of HFC/CO2 hybrid systems as a potentially useful stepping stone towards HFC-free systems, but not as an end point in themselves. The overall aim should be to phase out these gases in favour of climate-friendly alternatives. The report looked at the chemicals used in refrigerating both in-store fridges and freezers as well as the transportation of goods.
The report recommended that retailers should:
1. Commit to installing only HFC-free systems in all new stores and refurbishments, across entire estate, including their food transport systems and international operations;
2. Commit to a total phase-out by 2025 at the latest (the UK Government will ban the use HFCs with the GWP above 2500 from 2020).
3. Fit doors on all chiller and freezer units as standard
4. Remove any HFCs with Global Warming Potential above 2,500 in existing equipment as a matter of priority.

Reference: (10 January 2020)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Tesco's website,, which showed that the company operated petrol filling stations. Retailing petrol was considered by Ethical Consumer to be operating in a high climate change impact sector.
As this information was taken into account as part of the companies climate reporting rating, this reference was changed to be non-scoring and is for information only.

Reference: (10 January 2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Tesco PLC website for the company's policy on the use of the hazardous chemicals parabens, triclosan and phthalates – chemicals commonly used in cosmetics products.

Some forms or uses of these chemicals are banned or restricted in the EU or the USA.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer and are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors.

A strong policy on toxics would be no use of these chemicals or clear, dated targets for ending their use.
Although it appeared progress had been made on phasing out the chemical, no target dates were given.
While tesco mentioned some of these chemicals in relation to textiles it did not have clear policies on their use in relation to cosmetics or personal care. The company therefore received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for toxics in cosmetics and personal care and lost a whole mark under Pollution and Toxics.

Reference: (21 July 2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Tesco's website for its policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals such as PVC, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and phthalates. The company sold a range of electronics products at the time of writing.

Tesco had developed a ‘preferred materials’ list for its own brand products. This contained a ‘red list’ of materials it aimed to remove from its own brand products by the end of 2019. This list included PVC. However, this list appeared to relate to packaging only rather than all products and materials: "In consultation with suppliers and industry experts, we regularly review the materials used in our Own Brand packaging and publish a preferred material list"

Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) phthalates appeared to only be discussed in relation to textiles and clothing.

A strong policy on toxics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as PVC, BFR and phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use. It therefore received a worst rating for toxics chemicals policy for its electronics products and lost a whole mark under Pollutions and Toxics.

Reference: (21 July 2020)

In 2020 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Pesticide Action Network UK and Solidaridad published an updated version of their 2017 report regarding the cotton sector and its sustainability.

Their overall objective was once again to highlight progress achieved and opportunities for improvement that would accelerate transformation of the cotton market towards sustainability.

Improvements since the 2017 ranking were said to be encouraging and to suggest that more companies were taking their responsibility to drive sustainability in the sector. Positive outcomes included:

43 companies obtaining more points than in 2017 including 24 companies moving up from one performance category to the next;
An increase in the number of companies in the categories Leading the Way (+6) and Well on Their Way (+5)
An increased overall uptake of more sustainable cotton.
Companies were ranked according to three criteria: policy, uptake and traceability.

Tesco PLC was one of the companies rated in the 2020 report. It scored 41.4 out of 100 points, up from 26.5 in 2017. The company was a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), addressing issues for all products rather than just the F&F brand as in 2017, and was deemed to be “Well on the Way”.

Its scores in each of the categories were as follows:
Policy: 12.5/20.
Uptake: 22.8/55
Traceability: 6.1/25

All companies mentioned except those 'Leading the Way' lost half a mark under Pollution and Toxics.


Sustainable Cotton Ranking (2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Tesco's website,, for a policy on sourcing conflict minerals. The company sold a number of own brand electronics products (including kettles, radios, portable DVD player) but no policy could be found.

Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.

Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for any company manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Such a policy would articulate the company's commitment to conflict free sourcing of 3TG minerals and its commitment to continue ensuring due diligence on the issue. The policy should also state that it intends to continue sourcing from the DRC region in order to avoid an embargo, which would hurt local workers even more.

A company should also demonstrate its commitment to the issue of conflict minerals by supporting conflict free initiatives in the region either through membership of a multi-stakeholder initiative supporting the conflict-free minerals trade (such as Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI), Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA) and industry initiatives such as JEITA Responsible Conflict Minerals Working Group) and / or financially supporting in-region mining initiatives (such as KEMET “Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability”, Conflict-Free Tin Initiative (CFTI), ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi), Solutions for Hope).

A strong conflict minerals policy would also:
- require suppliers to adopt a robust 3TG conflict minerals policy and programme equivalent to the company.
- include details of the steps it will take to identify, assess, mitigate and respond to risks within its supply chain.
- use conflict minerals reporting templates by Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (or may be referred to as EICC-GeSi) or OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas
- include a commitment (from the company and supplier) to only using 3TG minerals from smelters that have been audited and verified as conflict free by the Conflict Free Smelter Program, or an equivalent, as they become available
- list in detail the smelters or refiners (SORs)

Despite selling electronic items Tesco had no policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Therefore it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for conflict minerals and lost marks under Human Rights and Habitats and Resources.

Reference: (21 July 2020)

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: (11 January 2020)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the Guardian website from 5th October 2019. It was titled "Tesco and M&S likely to have soya linked to deforestation in supply chains".

It reported: "An investigation has revealed that Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and M&S all buy products from UK farmers using animal feed that includes soya from Argentina. About 14% of Argentina’s planted soya is in the north of the country, where deforestation has laid waste to huge areas of the Gran Chaco forest. Argentinian officials have confirmed to the Guardian that there is no traceability system for soya from deforested areas, which appears to be mixed with soya from other parts of the country before being sold on to the UK and other parts of the world."

Tesco lost half a mark under Habitats and Resources.


Tesco and M&S likely to have soya linked to deforestation in supply chains (5 October 2019)

In July 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Tesco PLC’s website for information about its palm oil souring. A webpage was viewed titled ‘Sourcing palm oil responsibly’, dated 01/06/2020.

It stated: "Tesco is committed to zero-net deforestation in our sourcing of palm oil. As members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) we have committed to achieve this by 2020. We have also committed to sourcing 100% certified palm oil by 2020 (Tesco Own Brand products) as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) [...] From 2021, we will be further strengthening our UK palm oil policy by requiring all palm oil used in our Tesco UK Own Brand products to come from an RSPO certified Segregated source (where feasible)."

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer downloaded the Tesco PLC’s most recent submission to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), its 2018 Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) from the RSPO's website (this was still the most recent available in July 2020). The company's ACOP provided figures for the total volume of crude palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives used. It stated that it used a total of 50,595 tonnes. 75% of this was RSPO certified and 40% was segregated. For the first time, it reported on volumes used in its operations around the world and not just in the UK. It stated that "Tesco Plc includes retail operations in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland,Slovakia) and Asia (Thailand, Malaysia) and also wholesale operations in the UK." It was in Tesco Asia (Malaysia and Thailand) where it had the lowest certification rate: Own-Brand products 37% RSPO certified. Elsewhere 100% was certified. It stated, "For our businesses in Asia we are developing a transition plan in order to hit our 2020 target to ensure 100% of our TescoOwn-Brand products in Asia are RSPO certified."

However, Tesco provided more recent data on its website. The figures for 2019 were as follows:
Tesco UK: "100% of the palm oil used in our Tesco UK Own Brand products was RSPO certified (65% Segregated; 34% Mass Balance; 1% Credits)."
Tesco ROI: "100% of the palm oil used in our Tesco ROI Own Brand products was RSPO certified (45% Segregated; Mass Balance; 55%)."
Tesco Central Europe: "100% of the palm oil used in our Tesco CE Own Brand products was RSPO certified (35% Segregated; 10% Mass Balance; 55% Credits)."
Tesco Asia: "100% of the palm oil used in our Tesco Asia Own Brand products was RSPO certified (3% Segregated; 52% Mass Balance; 45% Credits)."
However, it did not clearly state whether these figures included palm kernal oil and palm derivatives as well as crude palm oil. As only percentages rather than actual figures were provided it was also not possible to ascertain this through a comparison with previous figures.

Tesco did not disclose suppliers or name significant sustainability initiatives, or discuss mapping its supply chain.

Overall Tesco PLC received a middle rating for its palm oil policy and practice and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference: (21 July 2020)