Members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) yesterday (1 March) released a collaborative sustainability report for 2015 which reveals that retailers are on course to reach targets to tackle food waste, reduce emissions and water use while also revamping supply chains.

BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “A Better Retailing Climate clearly demonstrates that creating and maintaining sustainable supply chains is at the heart of retail businesses.

“We fully appreciate the positive role we can play with suppliers and consumers in meeting head on challenges of climate change and resource efficiency. We are confident that we will meet by the year 2020, the ambitious voluntary targets we’ve set for ourselves.”

Figures from the ‘A Better Climate Initiative’ (ABRC) report reveal that total carbon emissions across retail and supply chains have been reduced by 19% since 2005, as retailers strive to hit a 28% target by 2020.

Store emissions have been reduced by 35% since 2005 – although this is relative to growth, meaning they are more than halfway to a 50% target for 2020. Water use in stores has fallen by 23% – again relative to growth – while the number of water measurement systems used by retailers has risen to 91%, with a 100% target in place for 2020.

The retailers have seemingly increased efforts to reduce the proportion of waste being sent to landfill, with a 4% reduction for 2015 and a 39% reduction overall as the BRC aims to send less than 1% of waste to landfill by 2020.

Emissions from refrigeration have been also cut, by 50% – again, relative to growth – and increased communication with supply chains has seen retailers source 91% of its palm oil from sustainably certified sources.

Reign of retail

With the Sustainable Development Goals in place, a legally-binding Paris Agreement set in stone and a renewed circular economy package now in motion, retailers are seemingly using this increased awareness and consumer pressure to boost efficiency.

The BRC has already launched its 25-in-5 programme – a policy and regulation adaption platform which could save up to £4.1bn in cumulative energy and carbon costs.

Through ongoing campaigning by WRAP, Britain’s manufacturers and retailers – including Coca-Cola Enterprises, Nestle and Mondelez International – have reduced their ingredient, product and packaging waste by 80,000 tonnes since 2012.

Individually, a growing number of retail brands are addressing key issues within their operations to improve energy and resource efficiency, with many noting that they are forced to act without Government involvement.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) recently confirmed it wants to build on “the most comprehensive, wide-ranging sustainability plan in retail” by fitting out its entire UK estate with LED lighting by 2025. Meanwhile, The Body Shop has launched an ambitious new CSR strategy including an overarching goal to be the world’s most ‘ethical and truly sustainable global business’.

BRC Better Retail Climate Report

Matt Mace

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