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Tesco Takes on Greens, Feminists and Youth Advocates

Posted by Dale Buss on February 22, 2012 11:14 AM

Tesco, the UK-based mega-retailer, is making headlines for actions that relate to its corporate citizenship stance.

For a start, the brand has decided to ditch its participation in an "eco-labeling" scheme which was aimed to calculate the carbon footprint of each product slapped with a "carbon-reduction" label provided by Carbon Trust. Despite disappointing eco-activists, Tesco said that it was too expensive and time-consuming to analyze each product's purported impact on carbon-dioxide emissions and was disappointed that other retailers hadn't followed its pioneering role in the program, which started in 2006 when the brand promised to start a "revolution in green consumption" and become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Not to be discouraged from do-gooding, Tesco has set up a not-for-profit organization to raise money for women's health charities in the UK that will be funded by sales of its new feminine-care line of products under its Halo private label. The "venture brand's" cheeky marketing campaign includes the tagline, "Halo protects women. No ifs. No butts." The campaign website includes a cheeky (pun intended) invitation to women to "show us your knickers." Feminists, start your (blog) engines!

It's also been in the news for its efforts to help get Britain's legions of unemployed youth working, with one online job posting leading to a firestorm in the British press.

The UK's largest private-sector employer said on Tuesday that it would provide full pay to British young people during their stints in a government-sponsored jobs training or "work-experience" program, and pledged a guaranteed offer of a full-time job at the end, provided they performed satisfactorily. The announcement was aimed at quelling the uproar that resulted after a Tesco job posting seemed to confirm fears that British employers might exploit the work-experience program.

In a mis-classified listing of a night-shift position, Tesco said that compensation would be comprised of the ability to stay on the dole, plus expenses to get to work. After the job listing was discovered and highlighted by critics, Tesco said that an IT error had resulted in the mis-description of what was supposed to have been categorized as a full-time position.

Tesco promotes apprenticeships on its careers website (which bears the odd slogan, "Every little helps"), and about 1,400 people have taken part in its work-experience program. The UK government-funded nationwide program institutionalizes what America calls internships, and to date, tens of thousands of British youth have volunteered for the opportunity to gain work experience for up to eight weeks.

In return, they're promised the opportunity to train and interview for a full-time job, while toiling for "free" in exchange for a continuation of their state-paid unemployment benefits. Though youth joblessness has become epidemic in Britain and across much of Europe, some have criticized the work-experience as a "slave-labor" program. With its promise of full pay, at least Tesco is putting its money where its mouth is.

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