CEO Ken Murphy, confirms Tesco’s continued destruction of the Amazon

Whilst a van with a huge TV screen circled Tesco’s headquarters, playing our video highlighting the evidence of 560 Wembley football pitches of deforestation linked to Tesco’s chicken and pork products to their shareholders, I had hoped Tesco would be ready to make an overdue announcement – they were finally ready to show real climate leadership and cut their ties with US agricultural giant, Cargill. 

Tesco made a commitment to its customer and shareholders to end deforestation in its supply chain by 2020, a target which was quietly readjusted to 2025. Cargill  – US agri-giant and Tesco’s biggest single provider of soy – have only committed to a 2030 deforestation-free target. The maths do not add up. 

So, the Mighty Earth team went to Tesco’s AGM to ask the Board and CEO Ken Murphy why Tesco is willing to tolerate deforestation in its supply chain between now and 2025. Despite setting a target, Mr Murphy told the AGM that Tesco “simply cannot” change the supply chain on its own.  



Let’s Factcheck the rest of Mr. Murphy’s reply:  

Murphy said Tesco “has a comprehensive plan to end deforestation in its soy supply chains.”   

FACT: Tesco has removed its Soy Transition Plan’ from its website. 

(We suspect to avoid being held to the targets they set themselves in the plan – 60% deforestation free by 2023 – and want to avoid being accountable to their public commitment.) 

Ken said: “All of our suppliers must meet our deforestation free targets by 2025.” 

FACT: Only 20% of Tesco’s suppliers had a 2025 deforestation and conversion-free target – this means only 1 in 5 had made a commitment to this target to date.  

Ken said: “we look for verification that the soy is deforestation free.” 
FACT: 64% of Tesco’s 2021 soy footprint is ‘not yet attributable’ meaning Tesco don’t know where it came from and cannot verify its deforestation-free status. 

Ken said: “Tesco was a founder member of Amazon Soy Moratorium.”  

FACT: Tesco supported the ASM, but it is not a founding member.   

The Tesco CEO seems to be pinning his hopes on alternatives for soy, which are currently not possible in the UK. 

“We are looking to develop things like the black soldier fly programme which can act as an alternative to soy. It’s already accredited as an alternative in the European Union. It requires legislation for it to be so in the UK” 

FACT: Other UK supermarkets have already made a switch to insect diets, supplemented by  

British beans, peas and sunflower seeds and fruit and vegetable waste. Where there is a will, there is a way. 

Tesco said ‘we are actively promoting meat alternatives.’ 

FACT: Tesco set a 300% increase in plant-based in 2020, but despite requests, have failed to provide any progress to date against this target. 

Pressed on the need to reduce meat and dairy as part of the company’s Net Zero target, Mr. Murphy described Tesco’s Scope 3 emissions as ‘vast’ and admitted a meat reduction target was necessary to meet its Net Zero commitments and was “very, very conscious of the role meat and dairy play in our emissions targets and we’re very committed to halving the environmental impact of that” 

Does this mean we can expect a 50% meat and dairy reduction target from Tesco, in line with the Government’s own Health Strategy? 

And finally, we were surprised to learn at the AGM that Tesco’s new Sustainability Chair is Stewart Gilliland, who comes to Tesco from Pilgrims UK, the UK’s biggest meat producers and owned by wait for it…JBS. Enough said.    

Tesco claim to be ‘leading the sector’ on environmental actions – but we don’t see the evidence of this in practice. Tesco must lead the way because its environmental footprint – as the UK’s largest supermarkets and the world’s 9th largest – is huge. To meet the UK Government’s legal commitment to 2050 Net Zero, business like Tesco, who claim the largest market share on the UK (27.5%) have the purchasing power to make the relevant changings. But it was clear at the AGM, as Ken Murphy read from a pre-pared answer to my question, that his personal knowledge and motivating on all things environmental are seriously lacking.  

Without strong leadership from Ken Murphy, Tesco plc has no hope of delivering on its Net Zero plans.