Tesco to slash own brand packaging

Supermarket giant Tesco has announced plans to reduce packaging on its own-brand products by 25% over the next three years.

It will also follow other supermarkets in adding information on how packaging waste can be disposed of in the least environmentally damaging way.

The commitment was made by Tesco’s CEO, Terry Leahy, when he announced the chain’s preliminary results for this financial year last Tuesday.

“We have committed today to reduce the amount of packaging on both branded and Tesco own label products by 25% by 2010,” he said.

“We will also label all our packaging according to whether it can be re-used, recycled or composted – and if it cannot, we will label that too. The first labelled products will be on our shelves by 2008.”

A spokesman for the supermarket told edie that the move was part of an ongoing effort to improve the compnay’s environmental performance.

“This particular area is a lot more complex than a lot of people sometimes think,” he said.

“Packaging has been a pretty hot topic in the debate on the environment recently so what we’ve said is we’re looking to reduce the waste on Tesco own brand products.”

The spokesman said packaging fulfils a number of important roles, from presenting and protecting produce to avoid food waste to providing customers with information on the goods they are buying.

“Whilst we believe that there is too much packaging this has to be done in a clever way. You can’t just chop bits off packaging and hope for the best,” he said.

While the public commitment to tackle packaging waste may be new, the supermarket had been looking at the issue for a long time.

“We have been making progress on this for some years now,” said the spokesman.

As well as an overall reduction, packaging will also carry information on its constituent parts and how, and if, they can be reused, recycled or composted.

“If it cannot be recycled and will end up in landfill, we’ll hold our hands up and flag that up as well,” said the spokesman.

He argued that to some extent the environmental debate had been largely the preserve of middle class newspapers and their readers and there was a need to make green lifestyle choices available to everyone.

“I think this will affect consumer choice,” he said.

“We know from the constant interaction we have with our customers that they really want to have the information to make greener choices. If you’re going to make a real difference it has to be accessible to everyone.

“What we want to do is turn this into a mass movement and hopefully we can go some way towards doing that.”

The supermarket’s pledge was welcomed by the Government-backed Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

“These are ambitious targets from Tesco but they are just the type of challenging action that WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment was designed to achieve,” said the organisation’s new chief executive, Dr Liz Goodwin.

“We will be pleased to continue to work with Tesco and their suppliers as they develop their plans to deliver these changes.

“We are extremely encouraged to see leading retail names making a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of packaging. Along with the other major grocery retailers, Tesco was one of the original signatories to the Courtauld Commitment, agreeing to work with WRAP to achieve an overall reduction in packaging waste by 2010.”

As part of its work with major retailers and suppliers, WRAP is also helping to develop a common approach to communicating with customers about the recycling and reuse of packaging, including carrier bags.

“We think it is very important that consumers are given clear and consistent messages, regardless of where they shop,” said Dr Goodwin.

Sam Bond

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