TESCO LOTUS has taken up the cause of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as part of the retailer’s efforts to ensure sustainable business growth while benefiting Thai society over the long term.
Salinla Seehaphan, corporate affairs director at Tesco Lotus, said that across the Tesco Group one of its three values is “every little act of help makes a big difference.”
“Our belief is that small actions can add up to make a big difference and that the way we run our business can make a positive contribution to our colleagues, our customers, our communities, as well as the environment,” said Salinla.
“Based on these values, we have set the ‘Little Helps Plan’, which guides us to do our business in a sustainable way. It comprises three core areas - people, products, and place. These pillars are underpinned by foundation principles such as a clear commitment to minimise our environmental impact.”
On the people front, Salinla says that in Thailand, Tesco Lotus employs more than 50,000 workers, including part-time students, who work together to serve customers every day in nearly 2,000 stores nationwide.
“We are committed to making Tesco Lotus a great place to work, offering colleagues opportunities to get on in their career as well as personal fulfilment,” said Salinla.
Regarding products, Salinla said the company is committed to ensuring that it offers quality, healthy, and sustainable food products to customers at affordable prices.
“Under the products pillar, there are three key aspects that we focus our efforts on,” said Salinla. “The first of concerns sourcing. We work closely with local farmers in our direct sourcing programme to make sure that the food they grow and produce for us meet safety and quality standards.
“The direct sourcing programme – which we have been carrying out since 2010 – helps to provide a fair and sustainable source of income for local farmers and SMEs across Thailand.
“In addition to providing a distribution channel through our stores and online shopping platforms, we help to grow their capabilities in modern and sustainable farm management.”
She said the second dimension concerns health.
“Our goal is to help make it easier for customers to live a healthier lifestyle. We have introduced a variety of healthier choices including low sugar carbonated soft drinks, trans fat-free bakery, low-glycaemic index rice, in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Salinla.
“Tesco Lotus was the first retailer in Thailand to eliminate trans fat from all of our bakery products, which are now available at all hypermarkets and Express stores nationwide, allowing customers to have access to healthier choices while still maintaining great taste and affordable prices.”
The third element involves the company’s approach to food waste.
“Tesco Lotus believes that food that is fit for human consumption should not go to waste,” Salinla said. “Using the farm to fork approach, we work to minimise food losses and waste within our own operation. Through our direct sourcing programme, we work with farmers on crop planning to ensure they grow what our customers want, minimising surplus crops, which lead to waste and low crop prices.
“We use state-of-the-art technology in our distribution system to ensure food stays fresh for longer. We implement a system called ‘Reduced to Clear’ to incrementally mark down the prices of products throughout the day to entice customers to buy. What is left at the end of the day is donated to local charities.”
Salinla said that all Tesco Lotus hypermarkets in Bangkok and hypermarket in major cities are now donating edible surplus food, having contributed so far to around 1.3 million meals to people in need. Inedible food is also turned into bio-fertilisers and animal feeds.
Regarding the places pillar, she said: “Our goal is to help our local communities thrive by positively contributing both socially and economically. In Thailand, we carry out our food donation programme to provide nutritious and healthy lunches to local schools.
“During the back to school trading period in April and May this year, we ran a campaign in which customers were invited to take part in donating food to needy children in the 10 poorest provinces in Thailand throughout the entire semester. Local schools come to Tesco Lotus to pick up fresh food and dry groceries on a weekly basis, helping them to have quality ingredients with which to cook for the students.”
Salinla said that in the most recent instance of help, Tesco Lotus workers from the Mae Sai store “provided little helps to the rescue operation of the youth football team from the Tham Luang cave, located just five kilometres from the store”.
“From day one, we provided daily supplies to the joint rescue operation including food, water, and other necessary equipment, until after the team had been rescued successfully from the flooded cave system,” she said.
She said the policies that underpin the three key pillars involve other important aspects including climate change. To combat climate change, Tesco Group’s ambition is that 100 per cent of its electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030.
“In Thailand, we have invested in solar generation, installing solar panels on the roofs of 13 hypermarkets and distribution centres,” said Salinla. “We have also been running a reward programme to encourage customers to refuse plastic bags. For the past five years, we have been able to save more than 100 million bags and rewarded more than 3 billion green points to our customers. For the period from July to December 31, 2018, we have increased the amount of green points rewarded by five times from 20 to 100 points, intensifying our programme to remove more plastic bags from the system.”
Regarding to the CSR campaigns, Salinla said, Tesco Lotus has identified targets and actions in each of these three pillars.
“For food waste, Tesco Group’s commitment is to halve food waste farm to fork by 2030, in line with SDG target 12.3 to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level and reducing food losses along production and supply chains until 2030,” she said.
“In 2013, Tesco was the first retailer in the UK to measure and publish food waste data for the UK operations. Tesco in Central Europe has also begun tracking and publishing food waste data, with Thailand and Malaysia following suit.”
She said that the Little Helps Plan has been incorporated into the company’s business strategies.
“We believe that sustainability is crucial to our operating model and the long-term success of our business.” Salinla said.