Tesco boss Terry Leahy unveiled the company’s Community Plan yesterday (10 May) just two days after the UK’s GBP95bn (US$177.5bn) grocery market was referred for a Competition Commission investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The company told just-food that the announcements were unrelated.

“The timing is coincidental,” Tesco spokesperson Laura Voyle said. “The announcement had been planned for some time and we had no way of knowing in advance when the OFT would make its decision,” she said.

“There were a lot of wide-ranging projects announced. This has not been pulled together in haste, it is the result of years of work and research. A lot of the projects are things we already do but are going to do better,” she added.

Consumers, Leahy said in his Community Plan speech delivered to the Work Federation, want to see more local and regional products that have been sourced ethically and sustainably. They want clearly labelled healthy foods and environmentally sound practices, he said. “They want us to be a good neighbour by being thoughtful about our impact on their neighbourhood, or by supporting local sports teams or providing more jobs,” Leahy concluded.

Leahy said that the UK’s largest retailer will respond to the consumer and community needs that it has identified in its ten-point plan. Tesco has set targets to reduce carbon emissions by 10%, investing in sustainable environmental technology, increase recycling at stores; introduce biodegradable bags, add nutritional labelling to all own-brand products, support community health-education schemes, organise sports events, make Tesco Express convenience stores “the best possible neighbours”, consult local communities before building new stores, deliver more local lines and promote regional British food.

The new plan comes at a difficult juncture for large retailers, with the UK’s Office of Fair Trading launching a probe into the grocery sector. Increasingly, independent retailers and suppliers have been speaking out against the market dominance of big corperations. However, Tesco denies that the plan is a response to this growing pressure.