Does it matter that Tesco had this selection of bad news headlines one day last week in national, trade and local press:

Tesco plant-based food advert banned as misleading (BBC)

Tesco rebuked over greenwashing in adverts for plant-based food (FT)

Britain’s Tesco rapped by watchdog over plant-based products ads (Reuters)

Tesco vegan burger adverts banned over ‘misleading’ environmental claims (Telegraph)

ASA bans ‘misleading’ Tesco plant-based burger ads (Farmers Weekly)

ASA chastises Tesco over greenwashing plant burger claims (The Drum)

“Misleading” Tesco plant-based food advert banned by ASA (New Food Magazine)

Tesco Plant Chef ad banned over lack of evidence for environmental claims (Wandsworth Guardian)

Probably a busy day for the Tesco press office; most of the articles reported that Tesco was ‘disappointed’ by the ruling. But probably also just ‘another day at the office’ for them. Broadly speaking, Tesco’s reputation is good and as a public company it appreciates and is trusted by the public and its sophisticated stakeholders to try and play by the rules*. This flurry of stories won’t dent its reputation. As The Grocer magazine headline read: “ASA’s Tesco ruling shows the complexity of promoting plant-based environmental credentials”.

All organisations have their problems from time to time and that’s baked into people’s understanding of the way the world is. A few years ago, Oxfam was flawed in its HR processes, not evil, for failing to act over predatory sex acts by some of its staff; a few years ago, a couple of Tesco executives made poor judgment calls over the way profits were booked which falsely inflated their profits. Donors and markets punished them proportionately, heads rolled and changes were made.

If Tesco was in the habit of behaving badly and deliberately as a corporation, then the ASA story would have been more significant. As it is, uncomfortable headlines but it’s a one day story. Tesco knows the importance of reputation and works hard at it. So move along; nothing to see here.

*   The detail of the ASA ruling was that Tesco did not have knowledge of the full lifecycle of the named plant-based burger featured in its advert to substantiate its claim that its patty product was better for the planet than ones made from meat. If it had made a more generalised, non-product claim, then it would have been acceptable.

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