Tesco yesterday became the latest supermarket chain to unveil a major new initiative to tackle climate change, pledging to slash carbon emissions from its stores, distribution centres and supply chain and announcing it will put "carbon labels" on its products so that shoppers can compare the carbon cost of a product in the same way they check a product's calorie content.
Tesco said the plan - which comes just days after Marks and Spencer unveiled a five year initiative to become carbon neutral - would establish the supermarket as "a leader in helping to create a low carbon economy".
Unveiling the new plan at an event hosted by the Forum for the Future think tank, Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said that while the company had been criticised in the past for its environmental record its status as the UK's largest retailer meant it had a valuable role to play in encouraging green consumer habits.
"Tesco has come to be portrayed as part of the problem," he complained. "This could not be more wrong. When you want to reach and empower the many, Tesco is a big part of the solution."
Under the new plan Tesco has committed to cut CO2 emissions from its stores and distribution centres by 50 percent by 2020 and also reduce emissions from its distribution network by 50 percent within five years.
It also pledged to slash the prices of energy efficient products such as light bulbs; emulate Marks and Spencer by labeling any product that had been air freighted into the UK; and develop a new labeling system to inform customers of the carbon footprint of each product.
Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, said that the announcement should have a knock on effect for other retailers. "When you have a company as powerful as Tesco and a boss as influential as Terry Leahy giving serious attention to climate change, the rest of business has to listen," he said. "Tesco's commitment to count and display the carbon cost of every product is groundbreaking. It shows that they are serious about tackling climate change and intend to do it by helping millions of customers make straightforward and affordable choices."
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