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Friday, February 01, 2008

More Tesco Greenwash - from another Tesco Customer Service Executive

Dear Mr. Anderson,

Thank-you for taking the time to reply to my previous email. You have however totally failed to address any of the points I asked and the points that the presentation raises. This is highly concerning on an issue which is of such importance to the future of the planet and quality of our environment.

You say, "Tesco supports biofuels as a way of helping customers to reduce their impact on climate change." You must be aware, or at least should be, that there is absolutely no scientific evidence that using biofuels provides any global warming benefit. Firstly, huge amounts of energy is needed in their harvest, production and transport and this is all supplied by conventional fossil fuels. Secondly, the massive amount of fertilisation needed to sustain the crops releases huge amounts of NO2 into the atmosphere which is up to 300 times more potent as a green house gas than CO2, as well as it being energy intensive to produce in the first place. Finally and most importantly, our planet is currently unable to absorb our existing CO2 and we desperately need as much functioning forests and fauna to lock up CO2. Simply burning it, which is the end result of biofuel in what ever form it takes, prevents any future hope of reducing current pollution levels to a survivable level.

You say "Greenergy asks suppliers, who are all members of the RSPO, to sign a sustainability commitment as part of their contract. This is monitored and can be audited at any time." I am sure that you would be prepared to make such an important document as this publicly available and provide copy of your internal audit results and also allow other independent groups the opportunity to audit against it. I look forward to a copy of your relevant documents. Secondly, I asked in my previous email how you determine sustainability. You still have not done so. If you are unable to provide a robust statement of sustainability, then the contractual commitments you are placing on your suppliers are worthless.

You say "scientific analysis has shown that both palm oil and soy from hot climates can lead to much greater CO2 reductions than rape produced in the UK and US," I would appreciate if you could give me a reference or copy to this analysis so I can see how it handles the huge CO2 emissions coming from Indonesia and Brazil through deforestation, and which has propelled these two countries to the world's top CO2 emitters, and threatens to push the world into a runaway global warming situation.

You say "Our approach therefore is to ensure as far as possible that these ingredients come from sustainable sources." Can you explain exactly what your approach is to ensure that your products come from sustainable sources? Given that you have failed to answer my previous questions on how you determine sustainability, your comment does not fill me with any confidence; especially when you go on to say that the RSPO and RTRS are merely "developing agreed criteria to ensure that signatories can source palm and soy sustainably without the need for large scale clearance of the tropics by forest fires or any other methods," clearly indicating that at the present time they do not have any agreed criteria of sustainability.

You say, "However, our experience as a food retailer is that while some prices are rising others are steady or even falling." My experience as a consumer is that my shopping bill is going up and up, and this is backed by UN reports and market statistics showing the price of staples such as wheat futures going up and up. While this causes me minor financial problems, in poorer countries such as Afghanistan, it is leading to crisis situations where millions of people are being pushed into starvation.

You say that "The reasons for this are many and complex and include extreme weather conditions leading to failed harvests and poor yields." I would like to think that your experience of failed harvests and poor yields would serve as a wake up call for you to start taking a much more responsible attitude to global warming and not simply rely on greenwashing your way through the problem to enhance your short term profits. You should also consider that given the tightening of food supply due to environmental factors, that we should be building additional resilience into our food supply, not further tightening it.

I look forward to you properly addressing the points that I have made. I also look forward to you addressing the issues that the scientific community have raised in a robust environmental assessment of your decision to pursue biofuels. Finally I expect you to answer the concerns of organisations such as Oxfam and others who have warned of ongoing human rights abuses which are justified by numerous reports from all continents producing biofuel.

A copy of this correspondence will be published on my blog http://kevsclimatecolumn.blogspot.com/ and copied to my MP, David Drew.

Regards,
Kevin Lister

Tesco Customer Service wrote:

Dear Mr Lister,

Thank you for your e-mail and presentation addressed to Sir Terry Leahy, our Chief Executive, about the sale of biofuels at Tesco and our green credentials to which I have been asked to reply.

Please accept my apologies for the delay in my response. As you point out in your presentation, Tesco supports biofuels as a way of helping customers to reduce their impact on climate change.

Over 200 of our petrol forecourts therefore contain a blend of up to 5% biofuels in the petrol and diesel on sale. This will enable us to meet the Government requirements on biofuels set out in the Road Transport Fuel Obligations (RTFO) which comes into force in April.

There have been many reports on biofuels and their potential environmental impacts. We agree with the Royal Society, who point out that: "It is not possible to make simple generalisations about biofuels being good or bad. Each biofuel option needs to be assessed individually on its own merits." For example, scientific analysis has shown that both palm oil and soy from hot climates can lead to much greater CO2 reductions than rape produced in the UK and US. However, if they are not sourced responsibly we agree that they can lead to the kind of impacts described in your slides.

Our approach therefore is to ensure as far as possible that these ingredients come from sustainable sources. Greenergy, our biggest supplier, is a member of both the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the RTRS (Round Table on Sustainable Soy). Both these groups are developing agreed criteria to ensure that signatories can source palm and soy sustainably without the need for large scale clearance of the tropics by forest fires or any other methods.

Until these criteria are up and running, Greenergy asks suppliers, who are all members of the RSPO, to sign a sustainability commitment as part of their contract. This is monitored and can be audited at any time. We believe these steps, which are industry-leading, will help biofuels to make a positive difference on climate change and can help to reduce the dependence on oil for transport. We have never claimed that biofuels are or could be carbon neutral.

We appreciate the concerns about biofuels and high food prices. However, our experience as a food retailer is that while some prices are rising others are steady or even falling. The reasons for this are many and complex and include extreme weather conditions leading to failed harvests and poor yields.

Offering biofuels to customers is just one aspect of our commitment to reducing energy use and tackling climate change. We are helping customers to go green, leading by example in our own business and helping to develop a low carbon economy by sharing information and resourced with others so that they can develop energy saving solutions too.

I hope the above shows that we are very much aware of the concerns that you raise and are acting on them.

Thank you again for your email.
Kind RegardsGary Anderson
Customer Service Executive
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