On the few occasions that I wander into a Tesco store I feel agitated. There are a whole myriad of reasons for this; amongst them are the following:
1) Self loathing because I am actually shopping there (rather than supporting small local businesses)
2) The way they treat in store employees
3) Poor quality vegetables from halfway across the world
4) Greenwash (Tesco are main propagators of this)
5) BUT most of all food PACKAGING!
Almost every item of food is caked in packaging in an attempt to try and entice us into purchasing the slightly more expensive product. You are encouraged to purchase bananas and courgettes in plastic bags and it seems that more packaging the more expensive the product. The main question this poses for me is why? I suppose the underpinning reason is profit.
Packaging itself has become a big business, with the global yearly food packaging industry estimated to be worth around 100 billion dollars a year and growing at a rate of 10% a year.
Another reason for the amount of packing could be because as consumers we have become accustomed to excess packaging. Lack of packaging has become associated with cheap value brands in supermarkets. It appears we have become far removed from the food manufacturing process. If food is hidden in multiple levels of packaging it allows the consumer to detach themselves from buying inhumanely killed and processed food. Instead consumers go through the process of buying a package. Deep down we all know that to produce food on the grand scale that Tesco does and at the prices they can offer is going to mean some pretty unethical production.
Recently “Hugh’s Big Fish Fight” exposed Tesco’s reliance on unethically caught Tuna with the pressure leading to a switch to 100% pole and line caught fish for its own brand Tuna. This a prime example of unsustainable un-green practice Tesco specialise in.
However the even more disturbing fact is that Tesco promote themselves openly as an ethical and green organisation. Recently they sponsored Climate Week alongside other organisations with a somewhat dubious green record, including RBS funding Tar Sands extraction and EDF working towards a nuclear Britain.
Climate Rush again did an amazing job of highlighting Tesco’s un-green credentials with their TESCO2 stunt.
The inspirational founder of Climate Rush, Tamsin Omond summed it up perfectly after their Tesco greenwash expose saying “for all their talk about ‘Doing The Right Thing’, few companies are more committed to the status quo than Tesco. Rather than set itself ambitious short-term targets, matched with holistic, honest reporting, Tesco spends its energy on token gestures like sponsoring Climate Week and Green Clubcard points. Fighting climate change isn’t the responsibility of the PR department; it’s time Tesco committed to delivering real, long-term value for its shareholders and the communities on which it depends. You can’t make money on a dead planet.”
Tesco have an amazing opportunity if they wanted to be serious about being green as oppose to playing green. Packaging would be a great place to start, not just by reducing the amount of packaging on food items but using the packaging that does have to exist as a platform to warn people about the dangers of climate change.
I accept some packaging does have to exist on certain products (e.g. yoghurt, eggs etc). But in instances where it does exist three simple facts about tackling climate change on all packaging could make a massive difference in changing mainstream attitudes towards lowering carbon emissions.
3 carbon emission reduction tips:
1) Only use as the exact amount of water you need when making tea
2) Take shorter showers
3) Walk or cycle when taking short journeys
These small actions are the starting points for many people in starting to live in a greener and more sustainable way. It wouldn’t cost Tesco much in the way of money to actually start raising awareness about a cause they claim to support. Of course the likely scenario is that they will continue to sponsor ‘climate awareness projects’ whilst continuing their whole array of unethical practices. They would do well to remember you can’t buy green, you need to be green.