Asda chief executive Andy Bond will this week attack efforts to restrict the consumption of alcohol and unhealthy foods as well as the use of carrier bags in a speech to the British Retail Consortium.
“We all, including government, need to tread a fine line when it comes to constraining consumer behaviour in areas where we think change is required – whether that be carrier-bag usage, alcohol consumption or even the sale of food deemed unhealthy,” Bond will say.
In an excerpt from the speech, reported in The Sunday Times yesterday, Bond adds: “We need to ensure we are primarily focused on behaviour change through education, not constraint. This whole trend toward greater central control and constraint has created a new political language where people talk about central government and business in the role of Big Mother rather than Big Brother.”
Bond is also expected to argue that the internet has created a shift in consumer power as fundamental as the formation of employee power through the trade union movement, with consumers now able to investigate the validity of any product or service claim and compare prices easily online.
Bond will also urge companies to keep costs down by thrift as they emerge from the recession, using standard-class train travel, printing out less paper and challenging employees to save £1 a day.
“Does all that sound like penny-pinching?” he will say. “Do you consider thrift is beneath you? Are you happy to go on running your business the way you’ve always run it? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions then let me warn you: you’re living in the past and in the future you may not be here.”