Tesco accused of greenwashing as it sells Brazilian meat it had banned

Tesco, the large supermarket chain in the UK, promised to ban Brazilian meat because it was causing deforestation. In doing so they positioned themselves as a leader in supporting the environment by reforming supply chains to break free from businesses in South America which are complicit in the destruction of the Amazon Forest primarily by cattle ranchers. The Times reports that in 2020, Tesco said it would ‘no longer sell any Brazilian beef, chicken or pork’.

Tesco accused of breaking their promise to protect the environment.
Tesco accused of breaking their promise to protect the environment. Image: Shutterstock.

Campaigners have spotted that Tesco is in breach of its pledge in discovering Brazilian chicken on supermarket shelves.

Gemma Hoskins, the director at Mighty Earth UK said that customers can’t have any confidence in Tesco’s claim that they are a climate leader when they are stocking products which are driving the destruction “of nature in the Amazon and its neighbour, the Cerrado”.

She has urged the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate Tesco to crosscheck what they say they are going to do and what they are doing. She claims Tesco is simply greenwashing in pretending to be concerned about the environment when their actions demonstrate otherwise.

In 2019 there were widespread fires in the Amazon Forest. Loggers burn the forest to clear land for farming. Deforestation rapidly increased under Pres Bolsonaro but since the election victory of his successor Pres Lula da Silva, deforestation has apparently slowed.

The CMA has also been asked to check other products sold by Tesco. It’s been found that one of the supermarket’s suppliers imported hundreds of tonnes of Brazilian chicken in 2021 and in 2022 to the UK as a raw product for processed meals although it is unclear whether they ended up on Tesco shelves in Tesco products.

In response, Tesco said on their website that “we are working towards zero deforestation” by tackling their supply chains. They apparently boast that they are the first UK retailer to stop sourcing from Brazil because of concerns about deforestation. A spokesperson added, “We don’t sell any beef from Brazil”.

The Times reported earlier in 2023 that Tesco chicken had been traced back to deforestation in the Amazon.

And in response to that, Tesco said: “The chicken product outlined is from a small, branded supplier and should not have been listed in our stores. We take our commitments extremely seriously, and apologise for this case of genuine error.”

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