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Tesco and Bangladesh: 10 points about improving corporate responsibility communications

Here’s a statement from Tesco from around a month ago concerning Bangladesh.

Many of you will be aware of the tragic building collapse there at the end of April.

Tesco had no connection with that incident, but given Tesco is a large company that sources from the country, they felt the need to say something.

That’s the right approach.

(I genuinely didn’t mean for this to be a round ten points, it just turned out that way)

As a piece of thoughtful, serious and well pitched communication, I think this is a really good company response to a terrible accident which demonstrate a maturing approach by some of the leading businesses.

Here’s the statement. It’s worth a read if you are communicator (and we all are)

Why do I think this is good? A few reasons:

  1.      It’s by a senior executive, Kevin Grace, with a photo and a link to a bio, not an anonymous corporate statement. And he is not a corporate responsibility executive, but is the group commercial director.
  2.     It shows engagement in the general issues facing Bangladesh: It makes clear what whilst Tesco did not buy from Rana Plaza, the company acknowledges that “we are all responsible for ensuring we prevent another tragedy”.
  3.      It take a strong view on the “cut and run” argument put forward by some with regard to Bangladesh, and backs up the proposition offered with numbers and third party statements of agreement.
  4.     The statement offers some transparency on how seriously Tesco takes the issues. (54 people on the ground working on the issues)
  5.     It acknowledges the seriousness of the challenge in the long term.
  6.     The statement shows Tesco is also working on practical solutions, open to anyone, not just their supply base: “Some of the most profound impact is on the factory floor so last year we opened a joint Tesco/DFID training academy specifically to show middle and junior managers how higher standards leads to higher productivity – as well as reduced hours and increased wages for all. It is open to any manager, not just the ones supplying Tesco”. (However a link to more about this would have been useful)
  7.     There’s clear commitment not just to multi-stakeholder initiatives such as ETI, but also the multi-stakeholder Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
  8.     There are serious – and NEW – commitments made in the wake of the tragedy. This is important, and the decision to disclose “a list of all our Bangladesh factories online from June so our customers and others can know exactly who we work with” cannot have been taken lightly.
  9.     The new commitments go beyond old/traditional ones made by brands around audits etc. (to include structural safety, a nod towards unions, funding training)
  10.     It ends with acknowledgement that this is not all that Tesco can be doing, just what they are able to do, and come up with, right now. That shows long term engagement in the issues.

    Here’s a really thoughtful piece by Salil Tripathi on business, human rights and Bangladesh.