Tesco is the latest UK retailer to try and prove its green credentials by assigning a 'carbon rating' to everything it sells.
Tesco Chief Executive Sir Terry Leahy answered your questions. Simon Mayo will put more of your questions to Sir Terry on BBC Radio Five Live between 1300-1600.
When will Tesco filling stations start selling bio-diesel?
Tesco is the UK market leader in the sale of bio-fuels to customers. We offer a 5% bio-ethanol mix at 185 petrol stations at the same prices as standard unleaded. All 181 of our filling stations in the South East and North West of England have been converted to bio-diesel. Over the next 12 months we aim to double the proportion of bio-fuels we sell, and increase the number of petrol stations in which we sell them to over 300.
When will Tesco commit to reducing the unrecyclable and often completely unnecessary supermarket packaging that accompanies everything I buy there?
We are committed to reducing our own packaging and waste and making it easier for customers to do so too. Over the last four years we have increased the proportion of the store waste recycled from 55% to 71%, reducing total waste sent to landfill by around 10,000 tonnes. Our award-winning green trays have been adopted all over the world because as well as replacing cardboard boxes and other packaging traditionally used to transport and display products, they also protect products.
We are also committed to other packaging reduction projects, such as reducing the weight of packaging we use. Four such initiatives for spirit bottles, drink bottles, pizza and potato packaging have already saved 11,000 tonnes a year. There is lots more to do and we will do more this year.
As both a shareholder and regular customer I welcomed your green points initiative for customers using their own bags. However, on most occasions the staff do not award them unless they are reminded. On two occasions I complained in store and was met with a shrug and the points were added, but practice remained unchanged. I wrote to your customer services department and they sent me a £5 voucher but still no change at the checkout. There is little point in green policies that are unenforced in store.
Alfred Archer, Maidstone, United Kingdom
I am concerned to hear this but I can assure you that it is not the experience most customers receive. Our green Clubcard points have been hugely popular and since we launched the initiative in August last year we have helped customers to save nearly 300 million bags - that's 14 million a week. All staff have been trained on how the scheme works and the vast majority are right behind it. If you would like to provide details of the store concerned I will look into it.
Why doesn't Tesco have a more comprehensive organics range, which packaging is biodegradable and is easy to find within the store? Shopping in Tescos takes ages because I can't find the organic food that I'm after. Yet I can walk into Sainsburys and find everything I need quickly, and have the added assurance that the packaging for the food I've brought is biodegradable. Why not have two aisles in the store dedicated for this? As well as having them locally sourced? And having a full range.
We sell more organics than any other supermarket and have seen a tremendous surge in demand recently. Sales over Christmas were up 39%. We have improved the range of products available, improved the packaging, including moving to biodegradable materials, and made them more affordable. You should find it much easier to locate the organic products you want because we have now located them alongside their conventional equivalents.
It has already been said but I believe charging for carrier bags would be a massive step forward for the environment. 3p a bag would not be excessive and would encourage shoppers to re-use them. I am sure on a 'big' shop, using ten or more carriers would not be unusual. Maybe if the shoppers were paying they would pack more carefully, as everyone resents spending even small amounts unnecessarily.
We have researched this issue with customers very carefully. While charging for bags would have a short-term impact, our concern is that it may not lead to longer-term changes in behaviour. Our approach of rewarding customers for using fewer bags or for not using any at all is achieving great results with nearly 300 million bags saved since we launched the scheme last August. By using a 'more carrot than stick' approach we think customers will really start to see what a difference they are making to the environment and they get rewarded at the same time.
For the superstores there should be comprehensive recycling facilities provided. So you should be able to recycle batteries (all types that are sold), all plastic types ( I have problems recycling some of the SPI numbers), glass and cardboard.
D Parker, Wiltshire
We really want to help customers recycle more of their waste at Tesco and have invested millions of pounds in the very latest state of the art automated recycling machines which sort the materials for you and crush or shred them so that they can hold more. These are rolling out to our larger stores and have proved extremely popular. Where these machines have been introduced the amount of customer waste recycled has doubled or trebled.
While produce is transported around the world to satisfy the need that Tesco and its major competitors taught their customer base to expect, back in the 60s, fresh produce irrespective of season, then any talk of green credentials is an insult to the intelligence of its customers. Most of the clothing is manufactured in the Far East, and again transported thousands of miles before it reaches a sales point. So come on Sir Terry stop being so blatantly patronising to your customers.
Michael Nye, Slough
Customers expect us to offer them a choice and they want to be able to buy many seasonal products all year round. However, we have been working hard to introduce more locally sourced products and to extend growing seasons in the UK so that we can reduce the amount of food we import. Yesterday I announced that we will label all air-freighted products with an aeroplane symbol so that customers have the information to make an informed choice. We will also limit the amount of air-freighted product we bring in to no more than 1%.
Why do potatoes have to be washed and sold in plastic bags - what is wrong with loose, dirty potatoes that can be put into a recycled paper bag?
Kevin G, Witney, Oxon
We know customers want a choice and that is exactly what we offer. Some people prefer to buy loose potatoes but others prefer the convenience of packaged or prepared potatoes. We have reduced the weight of the packaging we use on potatoes helping to save 11,000 tonnes of packaging a year.
Is the green initiative applicable worldwide?
Nandor Vass, Budapest
Yes it is and it begins by measuring our total direct carbon footprint, and we have commissioned Environmental Resources Management to do this. We will be opening environmental stores in Turkey, Czech Republic, Poland, Korea, and I'm happy to say in Hungary too. Our targets for reducing carbon are also worldwide.
I hope that cutting food miles won't mean buying much less from under-developed countries.
J Tarr, Plymouth
I hope not. We have been careful to protect existing suppliers from poor countries. There is a strong international development case for trading with developing countries.
Tesco is a world leader in the retail (not just grocery) business and should lead the way. I'd ask Terry for his thoughts on changing bonuses paid to store managers and all levels up to, and including, the board, to incentive them to specifically reduce energy costs/increase recycling.
Clearly the challenge of climate change will require important changes in the way Tesco does business. We manage major change in Tesco through our 'Steering Wheel' measurement system and this already includes our environmental targets. Our performance against these measures is included in deciding our payments to management.
I'm a department manager for Tesco, one of the biggest things I see day-to- day in-store is wastage of energy. I know Tesco have done a lot to improve this from appointing in-store energy champions and fitting timers to light switches and the use of energy efficient bulbs, but surely an investment of sensors/monitors to rooms and computers, back areas. A change to peoples' attitudes would go along way as well. Bringing individual store energy costs down should go a long way.
Jordy Lyons, Newcastle
I'm glad you've asked this question because our people are vital in this work. We have made a good start in reducing energy consumption by 45% compared to a typical store in 2000. But we must do more and that is why we have set a new target for a further 50% reduction by 2020. And this will apply to our international business as well as the UK.
Will the directors of Tesco be reviewing their own choice of cars that they have on their very generous company car package.
Peter Brown, Northampton
Yes. We've made it easier for staff to choose lower-carbon vehicles. We also encourage car sharing and video conferencing to cut down on unnecessary travel.
As a former employee of Tesco, now living in Los Angeles, and having helped set up online delivery in the UK and the US, I understand the positives to the environment of the service through less vehicles going to the stores. What are the plans for reducing the 'footprint' of the home delivery vehicles and the lorries delivering the store products?
Neil Watkinson, Los Angeles
Each of our Tesco.com home delivery vans save 6,000 customer car journeys each year. At our next environmental store in Shrewsbury, which will open this spring, we will run our Tesco.com home delivery fleet on fully electric vans. This will deliver a further saving of 100 tonnes of CO2 per year.
If Tesco is going to be 'eco-friendly', when will it be closing all its out-of-town superstores and selling off the land that it has acquired for further such developments? These stores are located such that they encourage customers to drive to them, so selling 'green' products within them is for 'feelgood' purposes only.
The vast majority of our stores are not out-of-town. They are in the suburbs where many people live. We are going to measure the carbon footprint of every type of store. We may well find that a combination of a larger store where people can get most of what they need in one trip, together with neighbourhood Express stores to which people can walk to top up their shopping may be the most sensible solution.
Thank you for your contributions, this question and answer is now closed.