Asos reduced emissions by 13% in 2020, despite pandemic parcel boom

Asos has also confirmed plans to set science-based emissions goals next year

The business posted the figures in a new operational carbon report this week, covering the 2019 – 2020 financial year. They relate to absolute operational emissions – Asos’s entire footprint across inbound transportation; inter-site transportation; fulfilment centres and offices; packaging; customer deliveries and returns.

Figures are also provided on carbon intensity. Asos has recorded a 28% year-on-year drop in CO2e per million pounds of revenue and a 45% drop in CO2e per order since the 2015 – 2016 financial year. On this latter point, Asos had been targeting a 30% reduction within this timeframe. The business will now work to update carbon intensity goals.

In the report foreword, Asos’s chief executive Nick Beighton wrote that Covid-19 has “put significant obstacles in the path of the business and challenged resilience in ways never before expected”.

Like several other online retailers, Asos grappled, in the early months of the UK’s first lockdown, with supply chain disruption and the challenge of protecting staff from contracting Covid-19 in the workplace. However, it went on to experience a huge uptick in sales, with shoppers opting for online options as physical stores closed.  April 2021 saw Asos posting a 275% year-on-year leap in half-year profits.

Beighton also claimed that “a very small part” of the emissions reductions recorded in the report can be attributed to the impact of the pandemic. Key drivers of reductions include improving the efficiency of delivery routes in the US, with changes at Asos’s fulfilment sector in Atlanta, Georgia; a shift away from airfreight for international logistics; procuring more renewable electricity for owned facilities and implementing lighter packaging with more recycled content.

The announcement from Asos stands in contrast to a recent sustainability report from Amazon, which revealed that the firm’s absolute global emissions rose 19% year-on-year in 2020 as demand increased.

Road to net-zero

Aside from its own pledges to reduce operational carbon emissions intensity, Asos is a signatory to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) climate action roadmap, along with some 60 other retailers. That initiative requires supporters to deliver net-zero across all scopes by 2040 at the latest, with Scope 3 (indirect) emissions covered as well as those from operations.

Beighton’s statement confirms that Asos will begin “reporting on emissions on a consolidated basis across the entire business” from 2022. It will also develop science-based targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) will require businesses to set Scope 3 targets if they wish to be classed as 1.5C compatible and if Scope 3 sources account for 40% or more of their annual emissions footprint. Such targets must have boundaries that address two-thirds of total Scope 3 emissions.

Sarah George

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