Tesco has called on the UK government to step in to ensure all food sold in the UK is “deforestation-free” after environmental campaigners urged the retailer to drop two meat suppliers.
Dave Lewis, Tesco’s chief executive said the government should introduce “effective due diligence across supply chains to make sure all food sold in the UK is deforestation-free”.
The statement comes after Greenpeace accused the retailer of buying meat from two UK firms which are owned and controlled by Brazilian meat producer JBS, that has “been exposed time and time again for its part in deforesting the Amazon”.
Tesco said “there is more we can do and we stand ready to play a bigger part”, changes need to be part of a coordinated UK policy on food.
“Protecting the Amazon is a critical part of this and can only be achieved through a broad coalition of government, industry, experts and NGOs,” it said.
Tesco has refused to delist the suppliers, Moy Park and Tulip, as they also supply Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose and dropping them could lead to thousands of job losses.
However, the retailer added that it has not sold Brazilian meat because of “concerns about deforestation” since 2018.
“Treating suppliers fairly is central to our business. Greenpeace is calling on us to delist two suppliers, Moy Park and Tulip, who we have worked with for over 40 years, who collectively employ over 17,000 people in the UK and who meet our environment and zero deforestation standards,” said the company.
“Penalising suppliers who are playing their part and stand ready to do more cannot be in the interests of this agenda.”
Greenpeace said an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Reporter Brasil revealed JBS was turning a blind eye to its suppliers’ violations and has also been directly implicated in transporting deforestation-linked cattle.
Industrial scale meat is the biggest driver of deforestation globally, Greenpeace said, adding that Tesco sells more meat than any other UK supermarket and has the largest soya footprint the largest in the UK, which is also linked to deforestation.
“Tesco promised to end its part in deforestation for commodities like soya by 2020 but in 2018 it quietly changed that goal to 2025 and still has not published a credible plan to show how it will be achieved,” said Greenpeace.
“Instead of tracing soya back to the farm, it buys credits to offset. If Tesco is really serious about ending its part in the triple climate, nature and health emergencies we are facing, reducing meat and dairy sales in favour of more plant based options is the only way forward.”
Meanwhile, Tesco has also announced it will extend improved payment terms for its smaller suppliers which see them have invoices paid immediately instead of in 14 days until 31 January 2021.