A university has been accused of using misleading figures to endorse Tesco’s carrier bag policy.

The participation of senior Tesco staff in last month’s University of Manchester Sustainable Consumption Institute report into carrier bag use was not fully disclosed, according to The Times.

Tesco helped establish the Sustainable Consumption Institute with a £25m donation in 2007.

The report, which analysed approaches to reducing disposable bag use, argued Tesco’s approach of giving Green Clubcard points for re-using bags was more effective than charging for bags – the system adopted in Ireland.

But the report failed to include Irish government figures suggesting that charging was the more successful method, with plastic bag consumption having fallen by 90% in Ireland since charges were introduced.

Five Tesco executives, including director of community and government David North, reportedly contributed to the study. Their names are mentioned but they are not revealed as working for the supermarket.

Tesco insisted it had not taken an improper role in helping compile the report.

“[The institute’s] research is independent,” a spokesman told the paper. “We share a common aim in sustainable consumption. Of course we are going to help them with the report and provide them with the assistance they ask for.”

Institute director general Mohan Munasinghe, who authored the study, insisted Tesco executives had not significantly influenced its conclusions, saying: “They did read  the report and offer comments but the principal authors take full responsibility for what is said.”

Read more
Will the government hang free single-use bags out to dry? (analysis; 19 September 2009)
Supermarkets triumphant in battle of the bag (17 July 2009)