The last few weeks have been some of the most challenging that many of us at Tesco have ever faced. Across the world we have seen unprecedented levels of demand, fuelled by concern and uncertainty; it has tested our business in ways we could never have imagined even just a few weeks ago.
As soon as first cases of coronavirus in Europe were announced, we were monitoring the ongoing situation to understand the risks to our colleagues, customers and operations, and to ensure we are prepared and taking action where appropriate. From the beginning of this extraordinary situation, Tesco colleagues on the shop floor, on the front line played an essential role in helping families across the country access affordable, healthy food and essentials. At the beginning of March we became aware of the impact of customers bulk-buying certain products. We have taken immediate steps and worked across the business to minimise disruption and ensure that customers are served across the country. All of our distribution centres have done bigger volumes than Christmas with very short notice! Also store teams needed every support in these busy times, so we launched an intensive national recruitment campaign to attract temporary employees. Over 1,200 new colleagues in Poland helped alleviate pressure on checkout and replenishment teams as well as pickers and drivers. We are also building alliances with other businesses, like taxi companies delivering shopping orders to our customers.
At Tesco we are proud of the role we are playing providing food for all in the most extraordinary circumstances.
The health and safety of our customers and colleagues remains our top priority so we have introduced strict rules to protect them. Since very beginning we were closely following advice from all the relevant health authorities and governments. We have introduced social distancing measures in all stores, at checkouts and counters, and changed the way we deliver home shopping orders. We have also introduced extra measures in distribution centres to make them safer for everyone. We were the first retailer on the Polish market to introduce special shopping hours for elderly and for the most vulnerable customers, with this solution being only later introduced more widely by the government. Our stores look different; there are protective screens on checkouts, sanitisers are available for our colleagues and customers, in-store communication posters are focused on new rules and how to do shopping safely. Customers have responded well to these changes and are respecting changes to the way they shop. This is all critically important to make Tesco a safe place to work and to shop.
Cooperation with local communities has always been very important to Tesco and we are aware of the role we play wherever our stores are located. The epidemic has already caused a change in the way we live and work, but it can also mean the need for food and other products from various social groups will increase. We continue regular donations of surplus food from our stores and support those in need. Each day our store teams are preparing products to be collected by organisations, now under stricter health and safety rules, which total over 40 tonnes of food weekly. We strive to ensure that our charity partners feel the effects of the current situation as little as possible. We have also decided to make a special in-kind donation to food banks and to Caritas – 20 tonnes of products meaning 9,000 meals for those in need! Our store teams are also responding to needs of its local communities – we have seen many examples of personal engagement and many acts of kindness and help for local hospitals.
Our Tesco Foundation also keeps listening to the needs of its partners and reacting in a responsible and flexible way. It decided to signed the European Philanthropic Statement on Covid-19, joining other 180 other charitable foundations operating across the EU. Tesco Foundation Poland has pledged its commitment to the charitable organisations with which it works, adapting activities, showing greater financial flexibility, giving more time for reporting and generally listening supportively at this difficult time.
We can be proud of our activities in fighting food waste and how we support local communities – by continuing these initiatives we can now confirm that it is an integral part of Tesco's DNA.
Thanks to the commitment and hard work of all colleagues at Tesco, we are continuously taking care of our customers and supporting local communities, as right now they need us the most.