MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Britain’s Tesco Concedes to Activist Shareholders on Health Targets

Supermarket group Tesco (TSCO.L) has agreed to increase healthy food options at operations in Europe as well as Britain to appease investors who had filed a landmark shareholder resolution to force the issue.

As reported by Reuters, the coalition of Tesco activist investors calling for Britain’s biggest supermarket group to set targets to sell a greater proportion of healthy food withdrew their shareholder meeting resolution on Wednesday after the company’s pledge.

Investment group ShareAction co-ordinated the February filing of the resolution by institutional investors including Robeco, J O Hambro and the Guy’s and St. Thomas’ health charity, as well as 101 individual Tesco shareholders. read more

The move represented the first health-based shareholder resolution filed at a UK-listed company.

Committing to progress

It initially prompted Tesco, which has a 27% share of the UK grocery market, to commit to increase sales of healthy products from 58% to 65% of total sales in its UK and Irish stores by 2025.

However, ShareAction kept its resolution on the table to encourage Tesco to take similar steps with its Central European stores and its Booker wholesale subsidiary, which supplies supermarket chains Budgens and Londis.

Given that Tesco has now agreed to do this, ShareAction has withdrawn the resolution.

It said a two-year process of engagement has now been agreed between Tesco, ShareAction and investors in the Healthy Markets Coalition, with Tesco implementing new commitments covering 52 billion pounds ($72 billion) of revenue.

Implications for employers

Louisa Hodge, engagement manager at ShareAction said: “Investors are recognising the importance of health,”

“By filing a shareholder resolution, our investor coalition sent a strong message to Tesco and to other supermarkets that shifting sales toward healthier options is important.”

Tesco said it shared the same goal as ShareAction to make it easier for customers to eat more healthily.

“These new commitments will ensure that every customer – wherever and however they shop with us – will have even greater access to affordable, healthy and sustainable food,” said Sarah Bradbury, Tesco’s group quality director.

Does this reflect the need for a workplace health and wellbeing index?

Catherine de la Poer, Founder, Halcyon Coaching predicts that wellbeing impact disclosure will be next in line for compulsory organisational reporting, following in the footsteps of gender and ethnicity pay gap reporting. She says: “This is yet another significant move by investors to recognise the importance of human health and wellbeing. Simply put health is wealth. ESG funds are gaining momentum. Europe’s investment industry is being transformed as capital is redirected into more sustainable activities. Environmental impact matters as does how organisations treat their employees; good to see the conversation moving beyond platitudes to real accountability”.

How can the business community do more to enhance health and health equity? Business for Health (https://www.businessforhealth.org/), a business-led coalition of socially responsible employers, investors, purchasers and providers of goods, has been set up to explore this.

Echoing de la Poer’s prediction, a key priority for Business for Health in 2021 is the development of an acceptable and easily captured Index for companies, employers and investors to measure contributions to health (now and into the future), as a prelude to a wider risk management framework.

This Index will help to identify ‘commercial determinants of health’ in their widest sense-, share best practice, and facilitate generation of knowledge to understand how business can improve population health. The approach will be cross-sectoral and the working model will encourage smaller employers as well as larger businesses to be represented; the business community will help us design and co-create it, while learning and sharing and iterating as we go on how business can create better health.

If you would like to help to inform this initiative and help to shape the programme, you can contribute to Business for Health’s short survey here.

Feedback to the survey will be used to create a series of virtual round tables that Business for Health will be running in May and June 2021, and to which survey contributors will be invited.

About the author

Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for the Mad World and Make a Difference Summits. She also drives the content for Make A Difference News. Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times