Great to see a happy resolution to the bitter two-month long dispute between Tesco and Unicef over the slogan ‘Change for Good’. Below is the wording of a letter in Today’s Irish Times from Tesco’s marketing director, Kenny Jacobs:
“I refer to the Opinion article by John Gibbons (August 27th). It is unfortunate that Mr Gibbons did not contact Tesco on the matter. An agreement has been reached between Tesco Ireland and Unicef Ireland whereby Tesco will no longer use the term “Change for Good” after September 11th, 2009. Tesco will support Unicef Ireland with an in-store fundraising opportunity in the coming months and continue to support Unicef Ireland’s ongoing campaign with Pampers to eliminate maternal and neo-natal tetanus.
With regard to the other points made by Mr Gibbons, we would have been happy to clarify rather than have him make continuous incorrect statements. For the record, each year Tesco buys almost €2 billion worth of Irish food and drink products. Of this, €655 million is exported to Tesco stores throughout the world, making Tesco Group a bigger export destination for Irish food than France, Germany or the US. The company is one of the biggest supporters of Irish agriculture, with all fresh beef and lamb coming from Irish farms. All fresh milk in Tesco stores comes from Irish diaries and when in season approximately 80 per cent of fresh vegetables are Irish.
The Change for Good price cuts brought Border pricing to the Republic and has been widely welcomed by customers. Price reductions of an average of 22 per cent apply across 12,500 products. New ranges have been introduced, improving choice for customers.”
Mr Jacobs studiously avoids addressing how Tesco could have done this in the first place, or the fact that they continued this blanket campaign for over two months in the teeth of trenchant criticism from Unicef. He also avoids stating when this “settlement” with Unicef was achieved. He is correct in saying that I did not contact Tesco in advance of the article being published. Unicef Ireland posted an article on its website on July 24th last condemning Tesco in the strongest possible terms for its effective sabotage of a long-running Unicef campaign slogan.
The statement went so far as to “…call on members of the public who have children’s welfare at heart, to consider carefully who they support when making consumer choices”. In other words, they are calling on the public to consider boycotting Tesco. For the record, that article is still available on the Unicef site.
If my article this week or setting up Everylittlehelps.ie in any way encouraged or facilitated a settlement in what was looking like quite a nasty dispute, then that’s a good outcome. Regrettably, numerous efforts on my part to get a direct comment from Unicef Ireland ahead of publication went unanswered, leaving me (not unreasonably) to depend on the detailed statement then – and now – on their website about the matter, quoting Unicef Ireland executive director, Melanie Verwoerd. Had there been any inkling of a settlement prior to my article appearing on Thursday, Unicef had every opportunity to inform me (or the media generally) of that, or indeed, to update a 5-week old statement on its own website.
Indeed, if a settlement was in fact reached a week or so ago, how odd that neither organisation appears to have made any effort to put this important information in the public domain. It is quite ironic to see the above letter in today’s newspaper and to be still able to log on to the Unicef Ireland site and read: “It is the first time in UNICEF’s history that a commercial entity (Tesco) has purposely set out to capitalise on one of our campaigns and subsequently damage an income stream which several of our programmes for children are dependant on”.
Had such a settlement actually preceded the publication of my article on Thursday, I would have been happy to state that fact, but whether or not some deal has been cobbled together in the last day or two (or week or two) between Tesco and Unicef Ireland in no way alters the essence of my Irish Times article, which was to draw attention to the alarming growth in power of the multiples. The Unicef saga remains a vivid illustration of and timely warning about the abuses that inevitably flow from market domination.
In essence, if a multiple will do this to a reputable charity, in full public view, it gives you some insight into both their corporate mindset and to the degree of arrogance and hubris displayed by their marketing department.
Meanwhile, the online petition has now been filled in by over 200 people. Nice to see some positive comments elsewhere on the issue: