If you haven’t read the papers today, here’s how the story goes: Thai business leader and former MP Jit Siratranont made a speech condemning Tesco’s aggressive expansion in Thailand at the expense of smaller retailers. Tesco is taking legal action. If it’s successful, Siratranont could face two years in jail and a whopping £16.6m fine.
He’s not the only one to come under fire. Tesco is also sueing Thai journalists Kamol Kamoltrakul and Nongnart Harnvilai for their disparaging remarks.
A group of leading British authors (Nick Hornby, Mark Haddon, Joanne Harris etc) has taken a stand against Tesco’s "disproportionate response", by campaigning alongside English PEN, the freedom of expression group.
Has Tesco turned into a monster?
“When you’re a business the size of Tesco, you’ll always get people sniping at you. But nine times out of ten, you need to accept that’s part of a democracy, it’s part of what you have to put up with,” says Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of The Black Farmer range of food products and prospective conservative party candidate for the Chippenham constituency.
“Tesco thinks the only way to stop criticism is to come out with the big sticks,” he says. “In the long run, that’s an ill-conceived strategy. It’s going to cause it a massive amount of damage.
“The days when Tesco was praised as the great British success story are over. Sure, people want companies to be successful but they also want them to show a greater sense of community responsibility and more forgiveness towards their critics.”
Emmanuel-Jones admits that he’s on dangerous ground by speaking out against the British grocer, which accounts for 20 per cent of his sales.
“Every time I say anything about it, I’m walking a tightrope. But in terms of integrity to my own brand [worth an estimated £6m] and what we stand for, I have to speak up for what’s unfair – and there is no fairness in smashing someone to bits for being critical.”
He says Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy could learn lessons from British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who has built Virgin into one of the world’s biggest brands. “He should look at how a company like Virgin has managed to grow without attracting such a degree of public hostility.”