Tesco’s ethical credentials will come under close scrutiny at its own annual shareholders’ meeting thanks to the dogged persistence of a single shareholder.

The retired solicitor only has a small shareholding but has gathered sufficient support to force the retailing giant to put the issue of ethical trading with suppliers onto the agenda.

Ben Birnberg, who is company secretary for War on Want, believes the supermarket should adopt higher standards in its dealings with suppliers and farmers in low-wage countries. He won the support of more than 100 other shareholders, who speak for six times the number of shares required, to include the resolution demanding higher standards.

This resoltuoion will now be put to shareholders. Tesco initially refused but was forced to back-track after Mr Birnberg used the Companies Act to show he had gathered sufficient support to get it put on the agenda for the annual general meeting on June 29.

Although it is clear that Mr Birnberg’s battling qualities have forced Tesco into this corner, the wider issue of ethical and fair trading is one that is becoming increasingly important for our major retailers.

As they come under much closer scrutiny, both from the media and from within their own operations, they cannot continue to go through the motions and be seen to be saying the right things.

All over the UK there are individual campaigns being fought and won against the expansion of our major retailers, with Tesco often in the firing line.

One of the latest campaigns is gathering momentum in Lichfield, where Tesco wants to demolish its existing store and create a much larger Tesco Extra.

The scheme has alarmed local people on many different issues, not least the environmental impact of such an expansion.

Maybe the success of one man might continue to inspire others to keep fighting against the apparent unchecked growth of the likes of Tesco?

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