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Tesco fights shareholder challenge over UK obesity crisis

A coalition of institutional and retail investors have filed the first health-based shareholder resolution against the supermarket chain

Tesco is preparing to face a shareholder resolution from a coalition of institutional and retail investors, who are calling on the company to set targets to increase the proportion of healthy products in its sales.

Coordinated by NGO ShareAction, the resolution is being supported by seven institutional investors managing over £140bn in assets, along with 101 retail investors.

If passed, the resolution will force the company to disclose the share of total food and non-alcoholic drink annual sales by volume made up of healthier products and publish a review of its progress each year in its annual report from 2022 onwards.

Ignacio Vazquez, senior manager at ShareAction, said: “Supermarkets, and in particular their key worker staff, deserve credit for working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep food on the shelves.

“However the companies also have a responsibility for the health impacts of their product ranges and marketing efforts.”

He added: “As the UK’s largest food retailer, Tesco’s actions are of systemic importance in tackling obesity. But its prime market position has not yet translated into leadership on this critical issue.

“We hope that Tesco’s board will endorse the resolution and grasp the opportunity to help build a healthier UK post-Covid, while also improving its financial sustainability in the long-term.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We are working hard to make it easy for our customers to make healthy choices, and we have set very clear targets on health and sustainability, published in our Little Helps Plan.

“Our reformulation programme has already removed more than 50 billion calories from our products since 2018; our ‘helpful little swaps’ events offer healthier alternatives to family favourites at the same price, and we have given away more than 100 million pieces of free fruit to children.”

They added: “We have also announced a target to increase sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% by 2025, and were the first retailer to set a target of this kind.

“We keep our targets under review to ensure they are sufficiently stretching, reflecting feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, and will share our latest health ambitions ahead of publishing our next Little Helps Plan update.”

 

 

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