June 15, 2018 / 5:56 PM / a year ago

Britain's Tesco pledges to end all-white board

LONDON (Reuters) - The chairman of Tesco (TSCO.L), Britain’s biggest retailer, on Friday pledged to end the all-white make-up of its board of directors.

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a Tesco supermarket in central London, December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The supermarket group’s current board has 14 members, three are women, and all are white. Its 12-person executive committee is also all white.

Tesco is Britain’s biggest private sector employer with more than 310,000 staff.

“Tesco is actually ... in very good shape in terms of diversity as far as our customer base, our colleagues, many layers of management are concerned,” chairman John Allan told shareholders at the firm’s annual meeting in response to an investor question.

“We aren’t there as fully as we need to be at the moment on the board,” he said.

Allan said he was personally engaged in finding candidates that would provide more visible evidence of Tesco’s commitment to racial diversity and inclusion on the board.

“I’ll be very disappointed if by next year’s AGM we haven’t cracked that,” he said.

“I’ve managed it at Barratt (Developments) (BDEV.L), where I’m also the chairman, I’ve recruited an extremely talented woman, Sharon White, to join the board there and that’s a great symbol to the rest of the company.”

White, the current chief executive of telecoms regulator Ofcom and a former Treasury official, joined Barratt as a non-executive director in January.

“I’m on the case at Tesco but we haven’t quite got there yet,” said Allan.

The chairman also defended the near 5 million pound ($6.6 million) pay package for Chief Executive Dave Lewis in 2017-18, dubbed “excessive” by shareholder advisory group Pirc.

Lewis joined Tesco in 2014 when it was on its knees and has led its turnaround.

“I would defend (him) to the hilt, I think he’s worth every penny that we pay him,” said Allan.

“We have been fortunate I think to get an inspirational CEO, who’s built an extremely effective team.”

Some 97 percent of shareholders who voted at the AGM backed the firm’s remuneration report.

Earlier on Friday, Tesco reported first quarter trading at the top end of analysts’ forecasts, sending its shares higher.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter

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