Top 20 products

We want 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 from us are sourced with respect for the environment and the people who produce them, while remaining affordable. Our top 20 products 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. Below we outline the key risks associated with each product and ingredient as well as some of the steps we are taking to address them.

1. Bananas

Bananas are one of Tesco’s best-selling products. We source all our bananas for the UK and Ireland from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms, to promote continuous improvement of labour conditions and protect the environment. Both are key elements of promoting sustainable production.

We also work closely with farmers to ensure increased worker welfare and worker representation. Our long-term and direct relationships with suppliers help them to plan ahead and effectively invest in their farms and workforces. We are a leading member of the World Banana Forum, seeking industry-wide improvements to wages, working conditions and environmental stewardship.

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2. 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.

Until 2018 we sourced corned beef from one supplier in Brazil but our product only represented a small proportion of the supplier’s business overall. Therefore, with little leverage to change practices with this supplier and meet our 2020 zero deforestation target, we decided to switch our corned beef sourcing to Europe.

Progress within the Brazilian cattle industry must be accelerated to decouple ranching from deforestation through improved land-use planning and increased efficiency.

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3. Fresh beef

Fresh beef is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions (particularly from cows burping!) as well as other environmental impacts such as land and water use. We are supporting industry forums, such as Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), to identify practical solutions to increase efficiency and reduce emissions from the sector, 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 long-term relationships with our farmers 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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 4. Berries

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. Further information on this can be found here.

We also recognise the risks associated with the use of migrant labour in our berry supply chains. In Spain, alongside other UK retailers and importers, we sponsor the Spanish Ethical Trade forums. These capacity building forums help ensure good standards in our own supply chain as well as improving industry-wide practices.

5. 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. South America is one of the world’s biggest producers of soy and an important sourcing region for our UK supply chain. It’s also home to some of the world’s most valuable forests and other ecosystems. As the demand for soy in animal feed increases, so does the pressure on these valuable ecosystems. Tesco is committed to zero-net deforestation in our sourcing of soy and we are currently implementing our UK Zero Deforestation Soy Transition Plan. In 2020/21, 100% of our Tesco UK whole chicken products and eggs were covered by a Tesco-recognised zero-deforestation certification. Beyond our supply chain, we work collectively at an industry level and with other stakeholders (such as NGOs and governments), because we recognise that developing the right conditions for a sustainable soy market requires effective collaboration. We recently finished gathering GHG emissions data from all our key suppliers to ensure we are on track to meet our supply chain carbon reduction targets.

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6. 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 workers welfare on farm and in packing facilities, with high proportions of seasonal and migrant labour. We conduct audits at a grower level in high risk countries and collaborate with others as part of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) working groups to improve social dialogue as a tool for ensuring decent work. 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.

7. Coffee

Coffee is one of the world’s most traded commodities. But coffee production around the world faces significant challenges, including smallholder livelihoods, labour rights, low wages 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. Our largest volumes of coffee come from Vietnam, followed by Brazil.

All the coffee beans we use in Own Brand products sold in the UK, which includes coffee drinks in our cafes are Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certified. We are also collaborating through the Global Coffee Platform, to address endemic challenges that cannot be solved through certification alone, requiring multi-stakeholder engagement for the development of sustainable solutions.

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8. Cocoa

All the cocoa required for our Own Brand chocolate products sold in the UK is sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. All the cocoa used in other Tesco UK Own Brand products, such as biscuits, cakes, desserts and cereals, is responsibly sourced from one of four schemes – Cocoa Horizons, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ.  The majority of the cocoa within Tesco UK own-brand products comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Our responsible sourcing strategy for cocoa recognises that the most effective role we can play is through engagement with cocoa traders. By collaborating with other retailers we can make our engagement with traders even more meaningful which is why in 2018 we helped set up the Retail Cocoa Collaboration. Through this group we are assessing and engaging global traders on key topics such as deforestation, child labour and farmer incomes.

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9. Cotton

Tesco is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative and we are committed to sourcing 100% more sustainable cotton by 2025. To eliminate forced labour in cotton production, we have banned sourcing from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where state-sanctioned child labour and forced labour are common in cotton production. We are also committed to eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals in our clothing and footwear supply chains. Our plan is endorsed by Greenpeace as part of their DETOX campaign.

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10. Milk

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.

Through the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) we are committed to ensuring a fair price for our farmers alongside improving animal welfare standards and reducing 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 emissions from cattle methane.

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11. Palm oil

Palm oil plays an important role in many of our products. 100% of the palm oil used in our Own Brand products is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). We are committed to addressing the challenges associated with 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), other retailers and the RSPO to transform the industry.

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12. Potatoes

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. We work with a number of our suppliers and growers to identify emissions hotspots using the Cool Farm Tool.

Our Sustainable Farming Group for potatoes is focusing on interventions which will be most effective in reducing emissions, such as optimising application of nitrogen fertiliser and promoting use of over-winter cover crops. 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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13. Prawns

In 2020, in partnership with our suppliers, we commissioned a human rights impact assessment of our Vietnamese prawn supply chain in order to gain a holistic and in-depth insight into challenges faced by workers and communities. We are committed to taking action against the findings from this study.

In Thailand, we continue to partner with the Issara Institute. 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.

14. Rice

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.

Because our direct leverage is relatively limited in terms of global consumption, and because industry efforts in this area are in development, our focus is on working with our suppliers, who engage with initiatives such as the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative in Italy and the Sustainable Rice Platform, to support this development collaboratively.

Most recently, we have identified rice as a priority product supply chain in our Sustainable Livelihoods strategy

15. 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 often involves a large number of migrant workers who are more vulnerable to exploitation. To mitigate these risks, we actively promote the Responsible Recruitment Toolkit, of which we are a founding sponsor, to all our suppliers. This capacity building tool, an initiative led by the Association of Labour Providers and alliance HR, supports businesses to embed responsible recruitment practices in their supply chains.

As outlined in our Human Rights requirements, we also require all our UK suppliers to undergo ‘Stronger Together’ modern slavery training on forced labour risks and responses.

16. Sugar

Cane sugar is linked to a number of human rights related challenges including low wages, poor working conditions and threatened smallholder livelihoods. Water use and water wastage is high in both cane and beet sugar. We are currently working with our supply base, NGOs and certification bodies to explore how we can best improve human rights issues and environmental sustainability in our sugar sourcing.

17. Tea

Tea is associated globally with low wages, gender discrimination and poor living conditions both for plantation workers and smallholders. All our UK and ROI Own Brand black, green and Rooibos tea is 100% Rainforest Alliance certified and in addition Tesco is an active member of the Ethical Tea Partnership. a not for profit organisation that convenes the tea industry, development partners, NGOs and governments to improve the lives of tea workers, farmers and the environment in which they live and work.

We continue in our efforts to reduce the number of tea producers and estates that we buy from creating long term, trusted partnerships with our most strategic producers. In collaboration with our suppliers and NGO’s we aim to work with our strategic tea estates to better understand how we can drive improvements for workers and the communities they live in based around our stringent tea sourcing criteria that governs how we source tea.

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 already funded training to empower women as well as the wider community, to prevent trafficking and gender-based violence. To date the programme is directly and indirectly improving the lives of an estimated 250,000 women, girls and boys living in Assam and is the biggest program of its kind in the region.

Between 2015 and 2020 Tesco together with Oxfam, the Malawian tea association and leading tea brands we active members of the Malawi 2020 coalition - a collaborative effort to improve productivity and yield across the Malawi tea industry, empower workers, and increase wages.

Tesco joined the Global Tea Coalition in 2020 as the only retailer in the group alongside multinational tea brands, producers and NGO’s. Tesco is an active member of two dedicated GTC workstreams looking to improve economic sustainability of the industry plus develop empowered, safe communities with good opportunities for women. 

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18. Tuna

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.

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.

As part of our cross-industry collaboration, we helped in the launch of the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) in 2019. The GTA is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies, working to ensure that tuna meets the highest standards of environmental performance and social responsibility with a clear five year strategy in place.

In 2020/21 we took a public position on halting the sourcing of Indian Ocean tuna given concerns around sustainability of stocks and their management and, together with WWF and in consultation with tuna experts and suppliers, we developed a new ‘Seascape’ approach to marine sustainability.

From a human rights perspective, we continue to work with our key tuna suppliers, NGOs, industry and government to address the issues faced by fishermen. Poor recruitment practices, excessive working hours and lengthy fishing trips are commonplace in parts of this fishing sector.

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19. 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.

In 2020/21, 63% of our seafood volumes were certified as sustainable by the MSC. This is a reduction on previous year’s performance, principally driven by the industry loss of mackerel certification combined with the reduction in the purchase of some MSC volumes for other species. We remain committed to sustainably sourcing all our wild fish and through our memberships of the North Atlantic Pelagics Advocacy (NAPA) group we aim to help recover mackerel’s MSC certification and thus increase the percentage of wild-caught seafood certified to MSC.

Certification is only part of our wider marine agenda. We have a key role to play in supporting the pro-active fisheries in their sustainability journey. We are working in partnership with the charity Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP)) to collect data on our source fisheries, risk assess them, and work with our suppliers on any improvements that are needed, often through Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs). All our wild seafood sources are publicly disclosed and can be found online at www.oceandisclosureproject.org.

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20. 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 critically important ecosystems of the world. 100% of assessed lines of paper/wood products are certified FSC/PEFC or from a recycled source across the Group. For viscose used in our clothing, we are collaborating with the Canopy Style initiative to eliminate the sourcing of viscose from ancient and endangered forests.

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