Armed Forces Network Launch speech by Robin Terrell

11 Nov 2015

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY - Robin Terrell's speech at the Armed Forces Network Launch on 09 November 2015

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

I don’t want to give a long speech really – but I hope you don’t mind if I take a few minutes just to say three quite crucial things.

Let me just start by saying something simple. Two words in fact: Thank you. The simple fact is it’s taken the support and work of many, many people to get our Armed Forces network up and running. It’s been a big team effort, but let me just mention a few individuals:

First and foremost, I want to thank our hosts today. It’s not every day at Tesco that you get sent to the Tower of London…when I mentioned it to my kids yesterday, I think they thought I wouldn’t be coming back…But it’s really fantastic to be here, and I’m incredibly grateful to Nick McCarthy and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers for hosting us so generously.

Let me also say a word of thanks to Mark Richards, our Account Manager at the MoD. Mark – you’ve put in a huge amount of time and energy into supporting our plans to back our Armed Forces. You were a great help when we signed the Corporate Covenant last year. So I just want to say – in front of your boss, the Minister – just how grateful we are.

That brings me to the Minister himself. We’re incredibly grateful for your support with this event – and with everything we’re doing to support veterans and serving troops. I know this matters to you as a person not just a politician and I just want to say how grateful we are.

There are so many people I should thank from Tesco. Hanna Whiting who runs our large Kensington store is one of 14 store managers across the country who are backing garrison communities by putting poppies on the signs at the front of our store. Also Caroline Silke and everyone in the Group Communications team.

But above all I want to thank the colleagues who helped develop this network. In particular, Chris Jones, Oliver Duhl and Marcus Denison. You’ve put a massive amount of work into getting us this far – this is a fantastic organisation that you’ve built, and it’s going to help hopefully hundreds of colleagues at Tesco over the coming years.

That takes me to the second thing I want to say. At Tesco, we’re incredibly proud of our record in supporting the Armed Forces. It dates right back to our founder, Jack Cohen. One of the highlights of my own career was when I signed the Corporate Covenant on behalf of the UK business with Michael Fallon last year.

Since 2005 we’ve raised over £30 million for Armed Forces charities including Help for Heroes. This year we will continue to raise money for the British Legion in all of our stores. And last year, our customers smashed records by donating a record £5.3 million during the year’s Poppy Appeal, beating the previous year by £1 million.

But the important thing for us is to keep looking at what more we can do to help. And that takes me to the third and last thing I want to say.

Today, we’re making two changes so we can serve our armed forces and their families a little better every day. One of them, of course, is our Armed Forces network. But the other is our new, industry leading package for our reservist colleagues. It includes two weeks’ full pay for mandatory training and an additional five days fully paid leave for additional military activities.

We’re already one of the biggest employers of serving and former servicemen and women in Britain, and we have at least 600 reservists working at Tesco. When we signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant, we agreed to give special consideration to helping and recruiting the armed forces community. Today’s announcement shows we are acting on that commitment

But this change is also a very special example of what our company motto – Every Little Helps – really means. When you look at all the things we do to try to support our armed forces, you see a huge range of Little Helpful things we try to do serve our brave servicemen and women better – from backing veterans charities to helping our reservist colleagues, supporting garrison communities to putting poppies on our stores. It’s right that we do that, and I hope we’ll keep building on those efforts in the coming years.

So for now, thank you again for everything you’ve all done to get the Network up and running. I’m incredibly proud that I’ve been able to play a small part. Please do keep up the great work.

Thank you.