Tesco gets into CSR as smarter business

Well done Tesco. 

That's not a phrase people working in sustainable business* say very often.

More on why I say "well done Tesco", below. 

First, some context. 

It's not that the company is a true laggard in responsible business. 

Behind the scenes (or PR as some might say) Tesco have had a large ethical trading team for some years with some committed and clever people doing what I have heard called excellent work in the supply chain, much of which is little known about.

It's on overall sustainability strategy and communications where the company has fallen down.  

What is clear to me is that the overall agenda (having an overall 2020 sustainability plan, for example) has not been taken as seriously as at some rival companies. 

The company has also had an unhelpful and deeply unappealing bunker mentality for many years. 

As I write this post, the English football club Millwall are playing Leeds. 

Millwall's supporters are well known for chanting "no-one likes us, we don't care" at opposing fans, or indeed anyone who will listen. 

Tesco appear to have had their same attitude. 

Banks seem somehow to be able to get away with that. Supermarkets cannot. Tesco is learning this. 

The other problem the company has had is the almost-comic commitment they once made to carbon labelling of products. 

This was rolled back quietly once they realised the logistical challenges and consumer communications futility of the idea. 

This was of course, to much quiet hilarity amongst other companies who had spent a bit more time considering the issue. 

Meanwhile though, Tesco's ethical trading work has become the most interesting part of what they do in responsible business.

There's a strong argument to justify this too. Aside from consumer use and disposal of products, the big impact a supermarket has is around the impacts their buying practices have in the supply chain. 

The company has worked hard on a pilot project to 'road test' John Ruggie's human rights framework in South Africa


This was a bold move in such a febrile country where suppliers routinely treat workers badly, and have done for decades. Here's some in-depth coverage of the issue. More analysis is needed on the individual results, of course, but Tesco deserves credit for taking part.

Now, to get to my very first point, where I condescendingly said "well done Tesco". Why this sentence? 

Because the company, alongside very few others (but one hopes the group is growing) now understands that to improve conditions in supplier factories and fields, we must focus on training for business improvements in how factories and farms are run. Otherwise, the compliance mentality fails all of us. 


A few other companies understand this: General Electric (apparently), Nike and New Look (for sure), BP (in Azerbaijan, on governance rather than 'business' issues) and perhaps a few more. 


I've been banging on about this for a few years, having realised it much later in my career in this area than I should have (although to be fair, Ethical Corporation has always approached CSR as a management improvement discipline, we didn't promote it in the supply chain as hard as we could have until fairly recently).


 So what has Tesco done, exactly? Well, according to this article, which appears credible:


F&F, Tesco’s clothing brand, has set up the Bangladesh Apparel Skills Foundation, aimed at raising the level of the ready-made garment sector and improving conditions for workers in factories.
Suppliers send middle-managers on day release to a classroom-based course.
It aims to build leadership skills and teach more sophisticated production techniques that might seem obvious to those in the developed world but are alien to many in less advantaged countries.
Tesco said the centre would be open to all factories, even those used by competing retailers, with the aim of raising standards across the board.


Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2231895/Is-Tesco-raising-standards-pay-Bangladesh-clothing-factories.html#ixzz2CaCmCoa5
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
F&F, Tesco’s clothing brand, has set up the Bangladesh Apparel Skills Foundation, aimed at raising the level of the ready-made garment sector and improving conditions for workers in factories.
Suppliers send middle-managers on day release to a classroom-based course.
It aims to build leadership skills and teach more sophisticated production techniques that might seem obvious to those in the developed world but are alien to many in less advantaged countries.
Tesco said the centre would be open to all factories, even those used by competing retailers, with the aim of raising standards across the board.


Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2231895/Is-Tesco-raising-standards-pay-Bangladesh-clothing-factories.html#ixzz2CaCmCoa5
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
"F&F, Tesco’s clothing brand has set up the Bangladesh Apparel Skills Foundation, aimed at raising the level of the ready-made garment sector and improving conditions for workers in factories. Suppliers send middle-managers on day release to a classroom-based course. It aims to build leadership skills and teach more sophisticated production techniques that might seem obvious to those in the developed world but are alien to many in less advantaged countries. Tesco said the centre would be open to all factories, even those used by competing retailers, with the aim of raising standards across the board."

And the results so far?

"Of the three factories hosting trial production lines overseen by managers sent to the foundation, the results are commercially clear. Productivity is up 43 per cent, absenteeism is down 20 per cent, line-efficiency up 5 per cent with the percentage of defective products down by 30 per cent."

 What's not in the article, but I am sure is the case (given New Look's similar work and results) is that forced overtime will be going down as productivity goes up, and accidents will be declining as a result (given how 'inefficient' accidents are in a better-run factory, there are always less of them when management is improved)

So well done Tesco for understanding how much better capitalism is linked with better working.

It's for that reason that this blog is called "The Smarter Business Blog". As the emerging case studies demonstrate, sustainable/ethical business is just smarter business. Simple. 



*Now, I know what press officers at Tesco would say to themeselves at this statement: "Yes we are not popular with sneering middle class psuedo-intellectuals who probably shop at Waitrose or M&S, but we are very popular with the working people of Britain, who love our low prices and convenience". There's an argument to be made there, I appreciate that. What's interesting enough to form the point of this segue though, is that a friend of mine who has a direct buying model for small localised consumer groups tells me the supermarkets are not in fact, cheap at all, and that consumers are beginning to realise they can get a much better deal from smaller players. So if that's true, the "champion of the working person" argument won't stack up in future if enough customers go online for better deals. Time will tell.
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