25-in-5: BRC launches new initiative to stimulate retailer energy efficiency

The UK retail industry could save up to £4.1bn in cumulative energy and carbon costs by reducing its combined energy consumption 25% by 2050, as part of a new initiative from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

25-in-5: Unlocking Energy Efficiency through Smart Regulation was unveiled this week to help retailers make sense of overly confusing policy and regulation preventing retailers from adopting better energy efficiency practises. 

“We believe that by simplifying the complex policy landscape the retail industry could realise further energy reductions to deliver an overall reduction in the order of 25% over the next five years,” the BRC said in a statement. “Currently, the complex and inaccessible policy landscape is leading to widespread confusion and disengagement in relation to energy efficiency.” 

The BRC has already put in place comprehensive sustainability scheme – A Better Retailing Climate – for improving the environmental credentials of the retail sector. However, it reports that a significant lack of confidence in energy efficiency investment is preventing improvement by the sector in this area; stifling innovation, slowing down the deployment of technologies and widening the skills gap.

Operational costs

The BRC said that improving confidence would not just tackle climate change, but lead to “more sustained economic growth”. It will provide an online energy hub to give advice and help share best practise and experience among the sector, and will also outline the business case for improved energy efficiency, including the opportunities for cost reductions. It will also highlight key technologies currently in development.

As the carbon associated with retail energy consumption in 2013 represents around a fifth of emissions from all businesses in the UK, reductions would have a meaningful impact on wider climate targets. But the BRC also says that improving the energy efficiency of operations is the most effective way of reducing energy costs set to increase significantly, according to current government projections, to £4.4bn by 2020.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “Energy and energy efficiency are of strategic importance to Britain’s retailers. Through our 25-in-5 campaign, we believe we can build on what has been done so far to help drive energy efficiency across the retail industry, allowing our members to benefit from significant energy cost savings while at the same time making a vital contribution to the UK’s climate change and energy security goals.”

Falling emissions

The BRC released its first progress report for its ‘A Better Retailing Climate” last month, outlining the “impressive progress” already made by the UK’s retailing sector against a set of voluntary targets.

Participating retailers such as Boots and Debenhams have achieved a 33% reduction in carbon emissions in stores between 2005 and 2012; a 27% fall in carbon emissions resulting from store deliveries in the same period and an overall drop in energy consumption from buildings of 50% based on 2005 levels.

The BRC’s efficiency initiative comes at the same time as calls from the Trade Unions Congress that the government has not done enough to help UK businesses improve efficiency, saying the gains from efficiency have “essentially flatlined”, saddling businesses with unnecessary energy costs.

Lucinda Dann

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