Addressing the sustainability challenges in our top 20 products and ingredients.

One of the commitments in the Little Helps Plan is to lead the industry in addressing the sustainability challenges in our supply chains. We want to give our customers peace of mind that the products they buy most regularly from us are sourced with respect for the environment and people, while remaining affordable. In the UK, we are prioritising the environmental and social risks associated with 20 products and ingredients. These have been selected either because we sell them in large volumes or because they have the biggest sustainability impacts.

We have already made some significant progress. The table below outlines the key risks associated with each product and ingredient as well as some of the steps we are taking to address these.


Bananas are one of Tesco’s best-selling products. We are committed to sourcing all our bananas for the UK and Ireland from Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM farms, to improve wages and to ensure the prices we pay enable sustainable production. We also work closely with farmers to ensure decent working conditions and environmental management.

Nearly 80% of our bananas are from producers – in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and West Africa – who we have been doing business with for more than five years. These long relationships help them to plan ahead and effectively invest in their farms and workforces. We are a leading member at the World Banana Forum, seeking industry-wide improvements to wages, working conditions and environmental stewardship.

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Corned beef (Amazon origin)

As part of the Consumer Goods Forum, we are committed to achieving zero net deforestation in our sourcing by 2020. Cattle ranching in Brazil is a significant driver of deforestation, with rainforests being cleared by traders to enable grazing. Our sourcing of beef from Brazil is limited to corned beef products. Our supplier has controls in place to monitor the farms they source cattle from directly, using GPS satellite-based mapping technology to identify and, if necessary, block farms that encroach on protected forest areas. But we recognise that progress towards full transparency within the Brazilian cattle supply chain must be accelerated and we’re working with others to ensure this.

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Fresh beef

Fresh beef is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions (more from cows burping than anything else!) as well as other environmental impacts such as land and water use. We are supporting industry forums, such the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), to identify practical solutions to increase efficiency and reduce emissions from the sector, including as part of industry standards. We are also looking at innovative solutions to reduce cattle methane.

Across the UK we have created a series of Sustainable Farming Groups to ensure that we build these long-term relationships with our farmers and so that we can become British Agriculture’s most trusted partner. The groups provide a forum to discuss sustainable production; customer needs, our standards and how we can work more closely together. They also play an important role in terms of securing supply, increasing efficiency and improving animal welfare.

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To meet customer demand, we source berries from a wide range of locations around the world. Some of these regions face environmental challenges, such as water stress. For example, the majority of our Spanish berries come from the Huelva region, which is next to the Doñana National Park. We are working with other European food companies and WWF as part of a Sustainable Agriculture Initiative project to ensure that berry production in the region is sustainable. This includes ensuring that growers have legal permits for land and water, and supporting them to reduce their water use through training and technology.

Berries are often hand-picked by farm workers. As part of the Better Strawberries Group, co-ordinated by Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Oxfam, we are looking at how we can help further safeguard women workers on Moroccan farms. More information can be found on the ETI website.

Chicken and eggs (using soy feed)

Fresh chicken and eggs are important staples for many of our customers. The feed used to rear chickens usually includes large volumes of soy, also known as soya, which is mostly grown in South America. The expansion of agriculture for crops in this region, such as soy, is linked with deforestation.
We are working hard with both our direct supply chain partners and also broader stakeholders (NGOs, industry groups) to source soy in a way that makes it economically feasible, socially beneficial and safeguards the environment. We are members of The Round Table on Responsible Soy and as part of the Consumer Goods Forum, we are committed to achieving zero-net deforestation in our sourcing of soy by 2020.

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Citrus fruits

Citrus products are typically water-thirsty and are often grown in water scarce regions such as Spain and South Africa. We are working with growers in these locations to monitor on-farm water use and reduce the pressure the cultivation of these products has on the local environment.

Like other agricultural sectors, citrus production also has challenges with worker welfare on farm and in packing facilities, with high proportions of seasonal and migrant labour. We conduct audits at a grower level and collaborate with others as part of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and in Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) working groups. We also have a full-time Responsible Sourcing Manager based in South Africa to work with suppliers to ensure good working conditions, support the strengthening of industry standards, and increase opportunities for disadvantaged youth groups.


Coffee is one of the world’s most traded commodities. But coffee production around the world faces significant challenges, including smallholder livelihoods, labour rights and poverty. We are helping to address these through a combination of independent certification of our own coffee sources and helping drive industry-wide improvement.

All our roast and ground coffee is already certified, with a combination of Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certification. We are now working to extend certification to all our own label coffee – including both our instant coffee products and the use of coffee as an ingredient in cakes and other products. And we are collaborating with industry initiatives to address underlying challenges beyond certification requirements.


In the cocoa industry, challenges of child labour are well documented and high levels of poverty, combined with limited access to education, increase the risk of wider labour exploitation.

We are on track to reach 100% responsibly sourced cocoa for our own-label UK products by the end of 2018. All the cocoa required for our own-label chocolate products sold in the UK will be from Rainforest Alliance Certified sources. All the cocoa used in other Tesco UK own label products, such as biscuits, cakes, desserts and cereals, will be responsibly sourced by the same date. To reach this broader commitment, and because different schemes are better placed in different geographies, we will use a combination of responsible cocoa programmes – Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, Cocoa Horizons and Fairtrade.

As part of our broader strategy on cocoa we are also members of the World Cocoa Forum, a multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to create a sustainable and profitable cocoa economy, thereby improving the lives of cocoa producers and their families.

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Cotton is a very water-thirsty crop, while agricultural debt related to farmer welfare, the use of child labour and state-sanctioned forced labour are also areas of deep concern in the cotton industry. We are active members of the Better Cotton Initiative, which seeks to address these issues, and our F&F clothing business has committed to sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2020. We have banned sourcing from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to support the cotton industry to eliminate forced labour. We have also committed to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in our clothing and footwear supply chains by 2020, including alignment with Greenpeace’s DETOX campaign.

Of 75 companies assessed in the 2017 Sustainable Cotton ranking, Tesco ranked 12th and we are working to achieve further improvement.

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Due to the large volumes that we sell, milk is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions as well as other environmental impacts such as land and water use.

This year we are celebrating 10 years of the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) which, since being established, has paid £270 million above the cost of production to farmers. In addition to ensuring a fair price for its 720 farmers, the TSDG has also improved animal welfare standards and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. For example, every TSDG farm receives a bespoke carbon assessment by an expert consultancy to identify emissions hotspots and to make recommendations on how the farm can improve. Through the group we also encourage other environmental best practice, for example soil health and on-farm biodiversity, and we are exploring innovative solutions to reduce emissionsfrom cattle methane.

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Palm oil

Palm oil plays an important role in many of our products. In 2016, 100% of our UK food products containing palm oil were certified to the standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). However, significant challenges remain for the palm oil industry, including deforestation and forced labour. Developing the right conditions for a sustainable palm oil market is not something that we can achieve on our own, which is why we are collaborating with the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), with other retailers and the RSPO to transform the industry. As part of the Consumer Goods Forum, we are committed to achieving zero-net deforestation in our sourcing of palm oil by 2020.

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Like other agricultural crops, potato production can have a number of environmental impacts, and the large volumes our customers buy make it a priority for us. These impacts include greenhouse gas emissions, water demand, water pollution and soil quality.

Last year we worked with a number of our suppliers and growers to identify emissions hotspots using the Cool Farm Tool. Our Sustainable Farming Group for Potatoes is focussing on interventions which will be most effective in reducing emissions, such as optimising application of nitrogen fertiliser. We’re also working with a range of growers in the Broadland Rivers Catchment in East Anglia to improve water quality and soil health, as well as farmers’ profitability, including innovation in tractor use.

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A 2014 investigation by The Guardian, as well as reports by NGOs and the US State Department, identified cases of modern slavery in the Thai-farmed prawn supply chain relating to the local production of prawn feed. We have established traceable monitored supply chains; worked collectively with others to advocate for better laws and implementation; and focused on protecting vulnerable workers by requiring our suppliers to work with credible NGOs who can provide information on risks and support with remediation.
A key partner in this is the Issara Institute, a platform to tackle human trafficking and forced labour in Southeast Asia. The Institute’s Inclusive Labour Monitoring™ approach brings together intelligence from workers, businesses, field experts and local communities, to create a comprehensive understanding of what is happening on the ground. As part of this work, migrant workers in our Thai prawn supply chain have access to the Issara Institute’s multilingual helpline. The Issara team provides information, assistance, and referrals to migrant workers and victims of labour abuses through these calls.


The environmental footprint of rice is substantial – a result of significant methane emissions during the growing phase. More than one billion people depend upon rice production, most of them are poor smallholder farmers. Rice is also the daily staple for half the global population and the demand for it is projected to increase significantly.

Rice is one of the ‘Top 20’ products we were last to start working on, partly as our direct leverage is relatively limited in terms of global consumption. Our focus is on supporting industry efforts and innovation to address the issues. We are working closely with our suppliers who engage with sustainability initiatives such as the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative in Italy and the Sustainable Rice Platform.

Salads (e.g. fresh tomatoes and cucumbers)

The production of salads has a range of environmental impacts. In the UK, the main impact is greenhouse gas emissions from artificial heating and lighting required for early-season production. Some of our suppliers are industry leaders in terms of energy efficiency and the use of innovative anaerobic digestion.

From a human rights perspective, salad production involves a large number of migrant workers in many parts of the UK and Europe who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. We are engaging with the Sustainable Agriculture Platform and working with the Ethical Trade Initiative on the subject. To help make sure all migrant workers are treated fairly and with respect, we’re supporting multi-retailer ethical workshops in Spain to upskill growers on labour and human rights.. All our relevant UK suppliers have also undergone Stronger Together training on forced labour risks and responses.


Cane sugar especially is linked to a number of challenges including low wages, poor working conditions and threatened smallholder livelihoods. Water use and water wastage is high in both cane and beet sugar.

As with rice, sugar is one of the ‘Top 20’ products we were last to start focusing on in detail. We are currently working with our supply chain, NGOs and certification bodies to explore how we can best improve human rights issues and environmental sustainability in our sugar supply.


Tea is a globally low-paid industry for workers, with associated social problems for many tea-growing communities. All our tea is now certified by the Ethical Tea Partnership, and we are working to ensure that 100% of the farms we source from will be Rainforest Alliance Certified™ by 2020.
In Assam, where girls and young women can be at risk of trafficking, we are working with the Ethical Tea Partnership and UNICEF to address the roots of gender inequality. Directly working with tea gardens, we have funded capability building to train women and the community to prevent trafficking and gender-based violence. Over three years, more than 33,000 women have been engaged.

We are also part of the Malawi 2020 coalition, including Oxfam, the Malawian tea association and some leading tea brands. It is a collaborative effort to improve productivity and yield across the Malawi tea industry, ensuring the benefits flow through to living wages for tea workers by 2020. It has already led to some encouraging increases.

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Sourcing tuna sustainably is about more than just the catch method. It is about the health of stocks, the impact on other marine life, how fishermen and crews are treated, and how the whole fishing area is managed.
In November 2016, we updated our tuna requirements to ensure our sourcing will help drive the development of truly sustainable fisheries. We only allow tuna caught through ‘pole-and-line’ fishing, ‘FAD-free’ fishing – a type of free-school fishing with a low by-catch – or from fisheries that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The fisheries involved also need to pass our own Tesco Tuna Responsible Sourcing Requirements. We have also taken action to ensure that we only stock branded tuna products in the UK that are on a clear path towards sustainability.

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Wild fish

Our ambition is to source all our wild fish from fisheries where stocks are healthy, environmental impacts are minimal and effective management is in place. We follow the principles of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, and we want all of our seafood to meet the MSC Standard.
We now source more than 120 Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-labelled products, up from only 16 just 18 months ago. All our 656 fish counters in the UK are MSC approved and we were awarded MSC Fish Counter of the Year 2017 for having the largest range of certified sustainable seafood of any UK retailer.

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Wood and paper

Wood and paper, as well as other timber products (such as pulp and viscose), are used for the manufacturing of many of our general merchandise, household and clothing products. The increasing demand for timber products is putting significant pressure on forest resources and is driving deforestation in some of the most sensitive regions of the world.

By 2020, we have committed that all our own-label products containing timber will be certified to a credible sustainable forestry standard (currently FSC or PEFC) or will be made using recycled material. As of summer 2017, we had already reached 70% of our target.

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