Corporate Eye

Tesco: chickening out of publicity

Tesco have received some very bad press over the last few days, over a shareholder request to submit a motion to their AGM.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (chef and campaigner) as spokesman for a group of over 100 Tesco shareholders, wanted to put forward a motion at the AGM, urging Tesco to ensure that chickens purchased for sale by them are produced in systems capable of providing the Five Freedoms:

1. freedom from hunger and thirst
2. freedom from discomfort
3. freedom from pain, injury or disease
4. freedom to express normal behaviour
5. freedom from fear and distress.

Whatever you think about this issue, it is clear that shareholders have the right to put forward motions for discussion at the AGM.

However, despite submitting his motion in advance of the deadline, somehow Tesco’s AGM papers had already been sent out to their shareholders, and Tesco insisted that Hugh should fund the cost of printing and posting the resolution – £86,888. Moreover, they told him that he had less than 3 days to find the money.

How to find £87,000 in three days

Like any marketing-savvy campaigner, Hugh turned to the internet, publicising the issue, putting up £30,000 himself, and providing a means of donating money and a range of auction prizes, such as a meal for six cooked by Hugh (a well-known television chef).

And … he did it. The site raised over £75,000 in two days, meaning that Hugh can pay for the resolution to considered at the Tesco AGM. Over 3,000 people donated (one person donating over £20,000); and many joined his campaign list as a direct result of the publicity surrounding this – surely not what Tesco had in mind.

Leaving aside the issues that this raises about why the paperwork had been sent out in advance of the deadline, or why Tesco didn’t waive the cost for Hugh as they did last year for War on Want, this is bad publicity for Tesco. Searching for Tesco and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on Google brings up over 31,000 results.

Is there any mention on the Tesco site about this? Is there information about this resolution on the Tesco site? Not at the time of writing.

This could be because Tesco see it as very small beer, and I suppose if your profit is regularly over £2.5billion, then £86,888 probably does seem insignificant.

However, to manage the fallout from this event, I would have suggested that Tesco should post some information putting forward their reasons for this decision, particularly since healthy living, green issues and social responsibility are all hot topics at the moment. Or at least something covering the subject, since it has raised so much discussion in the media, both online and offline.

Also, I would expect to see this resolution available for download in the AGM section – after all, posting it here for download wouldn’t have cost Tesco very much at all, though I accept that the postage cost would still have been incurred. But it is early yet – Tesco have only had just over a day to put this online, and Hugh had nearly three. Let’s think the best of them, and hope that it will be there tomorrow. I shall check …

**Updated 13/6/8: Tesco have added a copy of this resolution to their website for download from their AGM section, together with their reasons why shareholders should vote against it.

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i think it is horrible how the chickens are treated at tesco chicken farms. they are being shuved into a small room with about 1000 other chickens, and tesco are know and are letting it happen, :'(

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