Tesco averts investor resolution with new health drive

A group of Tesco shareholders on Wednesday axed calls for new anti-obesity plans after Britain’s biggest supermarket chain agreed to extend its health drive.

ShareAction, a non-governmental organisation campaigning for responsible and sustainable finance, said that a grouping of Tesco investors have withdrawn a health-based resolution that had been scheduled for Tesco’s next annual general shareholders meeting.

That would have been the first such health resolution for a UK-listed company.

“Tesco has made several concessions to avoid the proposal going to a vote,” ShareAction said in a statement.

“This is a landmark win for shareholder activism on health issues.”

Wednesday’s move comes after the retail giant announced the extension of its anti-obesity measures to its central European activities, as well as its wholesale division Booker.

The group had already unveiled plans earlier this year to boost sales of more nutritious food after pressure from ShareAction to take part in efforts to combat obesity.

However until now, those measures had only applied to the group’s supermarket stores in Britain and Ireland.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to shop for healthier food,” said Sarah Bradbury, group quality director at Tesco, in a company statement.

“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.”

Tesco committed in March to raise sales of healthy products to 65 percent of total sales from 2025, up from 58 percent currently. 

Additionally, it set 2025 targets for increasing sales of plant-based meat alternatives by four, and also wants prepared meals to contain at least one of the five daily government-recommended fruit and vegetable portions.

Tesco added Wednesday that it will publish a strategy update each year — and wants to go further after holding talks with ShareAction.

The pressure group welcomed the move by Tesco, which is due to hold its AGM in the middle of the year.

“Obesity costs the UK £54 billion each year in lost earnings and profit, and about 10 percent of the national health budget in treating related disease,” ShareAction added in its statement. 

“Severely obese people have been three times more likely to be admitted to intensive care with Covid-19. 

“Supermarkets play a pivotal role in population health through their influence in shaping what we eat.”