Former Tesco boss hails Fenland store as a proud achievement in push to go green

TESCO must take the lead in battling climate change, the supermarket giant’s former boss Sir Terry Leahy told Cambridge engineers this week.

Speaking at an event at Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering on Tuesday, Sir Terry said Tesco has a responsibility to ensure Britain meets its climate change goals.

His comments came as residents in Great Shelford continue to fight against a new Tesco store and only weeks after a new store in Bristol sparked riots.

Sir Terry, who stepped down as chief executive in March after presiding over a huge growth period for Tesco since 1997, said: “To do nothing is too risky.

“We feel we do have a crucial role to play because Tesco sits right in the middle of mass consumption and, of course, mass consumption has increased living standards in the 21st century but it has been built on fossil fuels.”

He highlighted the world’s first zero-carbon supermarket in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, as a proud achievement for Tesco and something other supermarkets should look to build on.

The store, built in 2009, is timber-framed rather than steel, and uses skylights and sun pipes for lighting. It has a heat and power plant run on fish oil which also helps power a nearby housing estate.

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He added the supermarket chain, which had revenues of more than �60 billion last year, was aiming to cut its customers’ carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2020, and be carbon-free itself by 2050.

“We are well-placed to influence the revolution in green consumption,” he said.

“First you have to look at your own business and then your suppliers, and then you can look at your customers.

“It will take changes in diet. It will take changes in how we recycle.”

Sir Terry, who was the boss of 472,000 staff, said it was vital people understood one person could make a difference.

“We have the problem with change because some people think, as an individual, they cannot make a difference, but if they see Tesco making a change, then we can help that process along,” he said.

Sir Terry was speaking at Sustainable Buildings in 2030, an event organised by Breathing Buildings, and was joined by other academics to discuss key issues affecting the building industry.

Koen Steemers, head of the department of architecture at the university, hosted the event. He said: “It is good to see a former-CEO so elegantly involved in these concerns.”