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REUTERS IMPACT-Tesco treads tricky path to greener future By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tesco CEO Ken Murphy takes a picture outside a Tesco shop in Britain on September 30, 2020. Picture taken September 30, 2020. Ben Stevens/Parsons Media/Handout via REUTERS 

Kate Holton, James Davey

LONDON (Reuters] – Investors and customers want supermarkets’ environmental performance to improve, but aren’t prepared to trade off for higher returns or lower prices. The Tesco chief executive (OTC:), spoke at the Reuters Impact conference.

Ken Murphy, addressing the issue of how industry can transition to net zero emissions said that it must find a way to balance the need to reduce plastic packaging and increase food waste.

Murphy was asked if customers would pay more for sustainable products. He replied that although there are a few committed customers willing to pay extra, the truth is that the majority of customers aren’t willing to.

“What customers want is for us to find innovative ways to create sustainable products.”

He said that investors also want supermarkets to be more environmentally conscious, but they don’t desire to have a lower return.

He said, “So we are constantly juggling this priorities and hopefully doing a decent work.”


Tesco, the British supermarket of 102 years, has plans to achieve a net zero-carbon target for 2035. This will be achieved by using renewable energy and cutting down on plastic.

Many environmentalists are skeptical of the ability of large companies to cut their carbon emissions. This is because they see it as an exercise in public relations. Large companies, like Primark fast fashion chain, have set targets recently and say that they are able to make a significant difference because of their size.

Tesco is a global company that has 360,000 employees and provides supply chain services worldwide. This requires significant change in many areas of the business.

To reduce water use, it has introduced vertical strawberry farms and unwashed potato varieties that last longer. It also launched reusable packaging. The company has increased the recycling of plastic packaging, which often ends up in landfills. It is also electrifying its home delivery vehicles fleet.

Murphy stated that in Britain, the movement to reduce plastic use suffered during the pandemic. This was when people sought plastic packaging as a way of increasing safety.

Murphy noted that Tesco is not able to dictate how customers should eat, just like the move to eating more plant-based foods. But he stated that Tesco, its wider industry and the government can educate consumers about these benefits.

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