Yesterday was the annual circus that is Tesco’s AGM, and the Guardian has a good summary of events here.
Needless to say Shareholders did not rise as one to support Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s chicken welfare proposal. In fact they rose as 0.089, just 8.9% of shareholders voting for it. The motion needed 75% to pass, but a win is subjective on these matters:
“If it didn’t technically succeed, it certainly succeeded in putting Tesco on their mettle,” said Hugh. “I said before the meeting that if I got 10% then that would be something that Tesco couldn’t ignore.
Chicken welfare was one of several issues Tesco bosses were confronted with yesterday. War on Want represented sweatshop workers in India being paid 16p an hour making clothes for Tesco stores: “Our new evidence again reveals how Tesco’s cheap clothing comes at the shameful price of workers’ poverty” said campaigner Simon McRae.
ActionAid were in attendance, on behalf of fruit pickers in developing countries. South African fruit picker Gertruida Baartman was there for the third year in a row, after speaking to the AGM in 06 and 07, and seeing no change.
Presentations also came from Care for the Wild, who are concerned about sale of turtles through Tesco’s Chinese stores, and from the US shop workers union UFCW.
It may seem a little depressing, all these groups lining up in vain to present their case to a callous corporation. But AGMs present a unique opportunity to force companies to face the realities of their operations around the world, and for shareholders to see and understand how their profits are made. Sir Terry Leahy and his colleagues may be able to leave the AGM and proceed as normal, and in fact they have to, because it is their job to make generate profits for shareholders. They do leave publicly shamed however, and the news coverage of the issues is a valuable opportunity to educate the consumer.