Tesco going green with Dave?
My first reaction on hearing that Unilever's Dave Lewis is to replace Philip Clarke at Tesco was 'What does that mean for Tesco's sustainability?' Partly that's because I'm a sustainability-obsessed wonk but it's also partly due to the fact that Lewis joins Tesco from a business that is at the head of the sustainability curve among its peers, with the Sustainable Living Plan a leading example of a long-term strategy that has health, environmental and social sustainability at its heart.
I'm not for a moment suggesting that the primary reason Lewis has been hired is because of his green credentials but as Tesco looks to reinvigorate its UK business and soften its public image, Lewis's experience of heading up the UK arm of a business that has sustainability in its DNA can only be of benefit as Tesco seeks to become a better corporate citizen.
The horsemeat affair was a wake up call for Tesco, which felt as though it received an undue share of the blame for a scandal that affected numerous retailers, suppliers and caterers. Maybe it had a point, but when you're the market leader you have to accept the extra responsibility and scrutiny that comes with that position. Since the scandal Tesco executives have been busy bending the ear of academics and consultants on how the business can improve the integrity of its supply chain, become more sustainable and play an active role in delivering health, environmental and social benefits for its customers. The Tesco and Society Report, first published in 2013, sets out Tesco's intention to use its scale for good and sets targets in the areas of youth unemployment, health and food waste. My understanding is this is not greenwashing, but a concerted effort to position Tesco in the company of the likes of Unilever and Marks & Spencer as a business at the forefront of the sustainability agenda.
With Lewis at the helm Tesco is arguably even better placed to deliver on this objective.