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CSR Actions at Tesco Ireland in response to the impact of COVID-19

Tesco Logo V2

Sector: Grocery retail

Location: Nationwide

No. of Employees:  Over 13,000

Twitter: @TescoIrlNews

Does your company/organisation have a CSR Strategy?


CSR Initiative

Tesco is one of the largest private sector employers in Ireland, with more than 13,000 staff working in its 151 stores, head office and distribution nationwide. Sourcing from over 490 Irish food and drink suppliers and supporting almost 14,000 farm families nationwide, community is central to our business ethos.

Our sustainability and CSR strategy - the Little Helps Plan - sets out how we will make a positive difference to our colleagues, customers, communities, suppliers, shareholders and the environment by addressing the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time. 

Our Little Helps Plan has four key pillars: 

  • People – Tesco colleagues and the workers in our supply chain
  • Serving customers with affordable, healthy and sustainable Product
  • Supporting communities in Places where we have a stake, and
  • Working in a way that protects the Planet.


  There are three values underpinning the plan:

  • No one tries harder for customers
  • We treat people how they want to be treated
  • Every Little Help Makes a Big Difference


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All of our colleagues in Tesco aim to live the values in the Little Helps Plan – it is the commitment and drive of all of our colleagues that make it a success.

How have you communicated this activity to the public? 

Full details of our Little Helps Plan are available at our Tesco Group website.

We regularly implement specific communications campaigns for colleagues and customers, as relevant to particular initiatives.

Which of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals apply to your CSR activity? 

We have mapped our Little Helps Plan to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to provide a focus for our activity. Tesco contributes in different ways and to different degrees to all of the SDGs. In line with UN Global Compact guidance, we have identified which goals are particularly relevant to us: where expectations, risks and opportunities for Tesco are greatest, and where we can make the most significant contribution.

The key SDGs to which our Little Helps Plan aligns are:

SDG 2: Zero Hunger, through our work to minimise food waste and redistribute surplus from our business

SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing, reflecting how we support our colleagues to live healthier lives and help our customers make healthier food choices every time they shop with us.

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy,reflecting the progress we’ve made to source 100% of our electricity from renewable sources.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, against which we’re working to help our colleagues succeed by providing them with the flexibility, skills and reward to ‘get on’, and also to ensure international human rights standards are respected at all our suppliers’ sites.

SDG 12: Responsible production and consumption, against which we’ve mapped our ambitions to help halve global food waste, farm to fork, by 2030, and to make all packaging fully recyclable by 2025.

SDG 13: Climate Action, where we aim to reduce absolute carbon emissions from our operations from 2015 levels: 35% by 2020, 60% by 2025 and 100% by 2050.

SDG 14: Life below water, to which we’ve mapped our ambition to sustainably-source all our wild fish.

SDG 15: Life on land, reflecting our ambition to achieve zero net deforestation in our supply chain by 2020.


Do you report on CSR in your Annual Report? 



Four Dimensions of CSR

Four dimensions of CSR – Environment, Community, Workplace and Marketplace:

As we faced into the unprecedented circumstances surrounding our business as a result of COVID-19, we demonstrated our commitment to our colleagues, customers and communities nationwide by:

  • Prioritising health and safety in all our operations
  • Providing extra help for those who need it
  • Working closely with suppliers
  • Supporting our communities

The Workplace 

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen our workforce of more than 13,000 staff play a key role in maintaining food supply in communities all around the country, as food retail was classified as one of only a small number of essential services. 

Our number one priority has been the safety of our colleagues and our customers - and in addition to keeping our colleagues safe, our response has focused on keeping them regularly informed and supporting them throughout what has been an extremely challenging time. 

Safety: To protect our colleagues’ health and safety, we have closely followed the guidance of the HSE and taken a number of actions to limit the spread of the virus, both within stores and our distribution centres, and for colleagues working in our head office. 

These include:

  • Installing protective Plexiglass screens at checkouts
  • Providing masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes/spray and hand sanitiser to colleagues, and regularly sharing guidance on hand hygiene, cough etiquette and correct wearing of face coverings
  • Upweighting cleaning in stores, and at key touchpoints
  • Remote working for all office staff
  • Supporting colleagues who needed to cocoon, and those who had issues with childcare or with caring for dependents
  • Amending our Sick Pay policy to reflect the Government amendments to Social Welfare Illness Benefit and providing sick pay from the first day of absence
  • Supporting colleagues with their physical, mental and financial health.


Keeping everyone informed: Since mid-March, we have focused on regular, upfront communications in order to ensure that colleagues feel reassured, supported and informed. These have included a mix of information on COVID-19, updates on our response as a business, wellbeing and other colleague supports, and motivational content, in addition to our regular news updates. 

Examples include weekly updates from the CEO, a dedicated section on COVID-19 on our colleague intranet updated daily, weekly live online events for head office colleagues, and dedicated COVID-19 editions of our monthly magazine.

Support: To recognise the effort of our colleagues throughout the period, we awarded a 10% bonus to colleagues in stores and distribution, initially backdated to 9 March until 1 May, at which point we extended it for a further four weeks.  In May, we also increased our colleague shopping discount from 10 to 15 per cent for a three-week period. 

To support colleague wellbeing, we shared dedicated content supporting wellbeing and working from home and provided all colleagues with free access to the Headspace app for 12 months. 

All of these initiatives were complemented by thank you messages shared through internal channels from our leadership team, and from our customers.

Finally, through our Family and Friends recruitment drive we hired new temporary colleagues to support our busiest stores, at the height of the pandemic.

We’re proud of how our colleagues have responded to what has been a very challenging period. We believe it’s really important to listen to our colleagues and we have used surveys to check in with them to understand how they are feeling. Through their feedback, we have been able to introduce further measures to support colleagues and customers, and we’re delighted that the response to the changes we have put in place as a business has been very positive.  

The Community

At Tesco, community runs to our core, and we are proud to support the communities we serve. As the situation with COVID-19 has evolved, we have quickly adapted to ensure we can continue to do this in the best, and safest, way possible. Through the Tesco Community Fund, Tesco supported national charities ALONE, Age Action and Family Carers Ireland, along with hundreds of community organisations nationwide, helping these groups during COVID-19.

Tesco Community Fund: Since 2014, the Tesco Community Fund has supported thousands of local good causes in the communities we serve. Each Tesco store has its own Community Fund and donates up to €1,000 between three local projects every eight weeks. To date, €4.7million has been donated to support causes all around the country through the Tesco Community Fund.

As the situation with COVID-19 unfolded and the Government and public health services identified the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions as ‘vulnerable’ in the crisis, we reviewed existing community programmes to see how we could tailor or upweight them, in order to support those most in need.

We worked with our local store teams and Area Community Champions to identify the local good causes that represented these vulnerable groupings. Since March this year, a total of 906 local good causes - caring for the vulnerable, people struggling with their mental health and those most impacted through COVID-19 - were identified and contacted to be a recipient of a donation from the Fund (with donations totalling €240,000 to date). The third round of the Community Fund during COVID-19 is now underway, with a further 453 causes around the country – this time supporting young people - set to receive donations totalling €120,000.

Using the Tesco Community Fund, we also demonstrated our important role in the community by supporting national charities. Working with Business in the Community, we identified ALONE, Age Action and Family Carers Ireland as three national charities helping those groups most in need during COVID-19. These three charities each received a donation of €50,000 in March, helping them to continue to provide services to those most vulnerable throughout this crisis.

Supporting the Government’s Community Call:  We have been supporting the Government’s Community Call Initiative since it began and engaged with key stakeholders to ensure they were aware of how this was operating in stores – this included issuing guidance to Local Authorities for volunteers shopping in our stores. Volunteers are provided with priority access to the store and with free multi-shop trolley bags to aid with their shopping. We also facilitate them with over-the-phone payments and help with any other concerns they may have.

Video outlining some supports Tesco Ireland have provided to communities at this time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9044d2j_T9U&feature=youtu.be

The Environment

The Tesco Surplus Food Donations Programme supported local causes and provided upweighted food donations to FoodCloud during COVID-19.

The No Time for Waste campaign, which includes our partnership with FoodCloud for food surplus donation, is an ongoing programme within the business and a firm part of our longterm commitments set out in the Little Helps Plan CSR strategy. In minimising food waste, we aim to reduce our overall carbon emission output through less waste processing and waste miles, support those living in food poverty through our surplus food redistribution programme and create a more sustainable industry as a whole. 

We were the first retailer to partner nationally with FoodCloud in 2014, and in donating almost 11 million meals, we’ve saved over 14,500 tonnes of carbon from the waste process. 

Since March this year, FoodCloud has seen a dramatic dip in volumes of food received into their warehouses, following a record surge in demand and volumes re-distributed for April and May. To support in the early stages, we donated two bulk donations of surplus food and have continued to support with our regular donations, as well as a week-long Food Appeal in 90 of our stores in July. This appeal put a call out for customers to donate nonperishable food to help the local causes we work with through the Tesco Surplus Food Donations Programme. In addition, from April, we have engaged with our suppliers and encouraged them to support FoodCloud directly, with great success.

The Marketplace

Safety: Throughout COVID-19, health and safety has been our utmost priority. Along with the workplace measures outlined above, we have also introduced the following:

  • New queue-management technology at our store entrances. The technology indicates the number of people in store at any one time, highlighting when it is safe to enter with directional arrows permitting entry, or a stop sign if customers need to wait. This is a simple, accurate way of reducing queue times and allows our colleagues spend more time helping customers.
  • Reminding our customers about social distancing with advertising, signs and messaging.
  • Asking customers to adhere to 'one trolley one person' in store where possible. We recognise that this is not always possible, and where customers need to come to stores with their family, or other people in their care, we adopt a common-sense approach.
  • Exclusive shopping times for those who are over-65, those who are extremely medically vulnerable, and family carers, up to 9am Monday to Friday. During these times, these groups have exclusive access to our stores.
  • Priority access for healthcare workers, care workers and emergency services personnel at all other times. Anyone in these groups can come to the front of the queue when they shop at our stores - they simply need to bring valid identification with them as they present to stores.

Furthermore, we worked continually to make improvements to our Grocery Home Shopping service, in what has been a really busy time, to help make sure that those most in need could safely avail of the service. These improvements included:

Making more delivery slots available as a result of a number of changes - including asking our customers to ‘Think before you Click’ by only shopping online if really needed.

  • Expanding our Click & Collect services in 14 locations nationwide. To date, measures undertaken have resulted in thousands of additional slots being made available to customers around the country.
  • Prioritising our over-65 customers, nursing homes and care homes with earlier access to slots and encouraging anybody who is vulnerable and does not have support in their community to contact us for assistance.


Suppliers: Supporting local suppliers is central to Tesco Ireland’s business ethos; we source from hundreds of Irish food and drink suppliers and support almost 14,000 farm families nationwide.  

Many of our suppliers are small, family-run businesses and we recognise that this has been a difficult time for them. To assist them with their cashflow requirements at this time, we made a change, whereby we would initiate invoice payments as we receive them, and process payments within five days, rather than the usual 14-day period. This change commenced from Wednesday 25th March for an initial three-month period and has now been extended until January 2021. 

With this extension, over 200 small Irish food and drinks companies will continue to have their invoices paid immediately, instead of the usual 14 days. Extending these improved payment terms will mean small businesses will continue to be supported throughout the busy Christmas period and beyond.

As one of the largest purchasers of Irish agrifood, we are conscious of supporting our suppliers, many of whom are facing challenges as a result of market dynamics, particularly changes in the food service sector. In the beef sector, we maintained the price paid to processors for beef at January levels, until June this year. In horticulture, we also recently confirmed a further extension of our 20-year relationship with Country Crest for the supply of potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes in a two and a half-year contract worth €62.5million. 


Download a copy of the Case Study as a .pdf

Case Study provided by:

Tesco Ireland, August 2020

*Updated October 2021