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Tesco, theUnited Kingdom’s largest retailer, is planning to open the first of hundreds of stores in the United States in November 2007. Its “Fresh and Easy” stores will carry a full line of groceries, perishables, and prepared meals. But not everyone is welcoming the retail giant, fearing it will operate its supply chain and treat employees in abusive ways, as Wal-Mart has been known to do.

The Urban & Environmental Policy Initiative (UEPI) inLos Angelessays that Tesco does not always live up to the corporate and social responsibility reputation it markets to the public. Left-wing campaigners have argued Tesco will exploit U.S.workers, damage the environment, destroy local businesses, and provide no benefit to local communities. According to the UEPI, Tesco refuses to negotiate with local labor unions and restricts employees’ hours, forcing them to pick up second jobs just to make a living wage.

Tesco’s distribution center in California is located in an already polluted region, and the additional truck traffic and emissions it will produce makes its presence an environmental concern. The UEPI is also worried that the chain’s history of supply chain abuse, poor working conditions, and food safety problems will reoccur in the United States.

The UEPI’s main goal therefore to make U.S. consumers aware of the power and consequences that Tesco could have over employees and consumers. Because Tesco suffers documented problems related to its supply chain and the environment, it should not be surprising if these abuses continued. Wal-Mart has been a controversial retailer since its creation, and Tesco could follow in its footsteps.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of Tesco entering the United States?

Stephen Foley, “Tesco Attacked in US for Taking the Wal-Mart Way,” The Independent, August 03, 2007.