Tesco has said corporate responsibility will an increasingly important tool in grocery competition this year for ethical and business reasons.

Executive director of corporate and legal affairs Lucy Neville-Rolfe told Retail Week: “I see corporate responsibility as an integral part of the business and part of the competitive mix. We continue to be strong in this area with new ideas and initiatives coming through.

“This year, corporate responsibility will be an increasingly important component across the market.”

Neville-Rolfe said that global economic conditions and a drive for energy efficiency are informing sustainability objectives. “It’s not just about being green for religious reasons, but because it saves money for everyone including business,” she said.

Tesco invested £74.5m globally last year according to its Corporate Responsibility report, released last week.

The retailer has invested in education centres in South Korea, schooling programmes in the US, relief for those affected by flooding in Thailand and regeneration projects in the UK among a host of initiatives.

The retailer is also working to improve energy efficiency and its carbon footprint in the UK.

Neville-Rolfe said: “Local engagement is a vital part of what we do in every market we operate in. The intent is always the same in every market but the challenges and the way you deliver it is different.

“It does help people to understand that you are putting something back. It’s important to a business to be valued and trusted by local people. I do not think people realise the scale of our corporate responsibility programme and it does make a difference to our brand which means overall shareholders support the programme.”

Corporate responsibility has been a key area in grocery in recent years, with the major grocers keen to prove they have sustainable supply chains. Sainsbury’s last year released its 20by20 Sustainability Plan which outlines 20 green targets while Marks & Spencer has put its Plan A strategy at the heart of its business.

Neville-Rolfe said that Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke is keen put community at the heart of the business and engage locally to drive customer loyalty and brand awareness.

She added: “We have got more to do on the brand this year; we are conducting a pitch to change our advertising agency and sustainability will be a part of that. You are going to see a different sort of Tesco in the coming months.”