As I write, the UK Government is debating the latest food scandal - that horse meat has been found in cheap burgers sold by some of the biggest UK retailers under their own brand. Leaving aside the avalanche of Twitter jokes, this illustrates once again the importance of having a tight control of the supply chain when it comes to corporate social responsibility.

First up, blame. Clearly Tesco et al did not plan to serve contaminated beef to their customers, but the sins of suppliers usually impact on the brand, not the supplier - and usually the biggest brand gets the biggest beating. It is Tesco that is getting it in the neck, not so much Aldi, Lidl et al. There are direct parallels with the Foxconn affair where Apple took 99% of the flak, with lesser brands like HP managing to stay in the shadows.

Secondly, traceability. Consumers rightly expect brands to do the heavy lifting on making sure a product is what it should be and comes from where it should come from. A couple of years ago, I visited a contract tissue paper manufacturer who, as part of their service to the brands they work for, could trace any pack of toilet roll back to the hectare of forest from whence it came.

Thirdly, honesty. Tesco got quickly out of the blocks, taking out adverts in major newspapers saying:

"We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise. So here's our promise. We will find out exactly what happened and, when we do, we'll come back and tell you. And we will work harder than ever with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again."

That's miles away from the ducking, diving and excuse making we saw from BP after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Strangely, rather than putting me off, this whole saga is making me fancy a burger for lunch.

 

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