Corporate responsibility was top of the agenda at this week's IGD convention, with Sainsbury's, Waitrose and a panel of manufacturers describing it as central to business operations.

"Globalisation may be interesting for the bottom line, but it turns customers off," said Waitrose MD ­Steven Esom. "Companies are confusing tactics, which are about planning for the next three years, with strategy, which is what you believe in. It's about doing what is right - time and time again. There's a risk that we'll have islands of best practice and oceans of mediocrity."

He added: "It is the job of the industry to educate people. If you look at stores, there are aisles of cola and crisps. While there is nothing wrong with having those products, we must look at the way we merchandise. It is far easier to pick up snacks than something healthy."

Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King said that corporate responsibility was the "battleground of today".

"Already we're being accused of 'greenwash'," he said. "Some people think we'll move on to something else. But this is more than skin deep; it's here to stay."

Paul Griffiths, former chief executive of Inter Link Foods, said all businesses should play a part. "We complain about people not being educated, but we are the ones who can do something about it. We are in powerful and influential positions."