Carbon Management Winner: The Co-operative Group

It was 14 years ago when the Co-operative first set its sights on carbon cutting. In 1998 the Co-operative Group's bank prohibited the financing of fossil fuel extraction, began reporting its emissions and started financing renewable energy projects. That was just the start. Today, the company's carbon management initiatives save it almost £60m a year.

The Co-operative has gone from strength to strength since signing off its first ethical plan in 2011 – a three year rolling budget and target programme integrated into its financial objectives. The company claims its plan places ethical and environmental issues on the same footing as its other business priorities.

In order to remain cutting edge, democratically-elected members of the company revise the plan targets annually, and the Co-operative believes no other business of comparable size take this democratic approach.

The latest revision contains 53 company targets ranging from halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, to working with its supply chain dairy farmers to help them reduce their emissions.

The Co-operative has certainly cut their CO2 emissions dramatically in the last six years – absolute greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 40% since 2006, saving 564,401 tonnes of CO2 annually.

Despite this, the company does not rest on its laurels, setting ambitious future targets to produce 25% of its electricity usage by 2017 and by 2020 to reduce emissions by 50%.

Although the Co-operative has substantially increased its turnover since 2006, across a 5,000 plus estate, it has also managed to reduce its energy consumption by 36% – from 934,104 tonnes of CO2 to 588,174 tonnes CO2. This disproves the theory that responsible cooperate behaviour suffers in a economic downturn; the opposite is often the case because reduced consumption increases savings.

In addition, the company has reduced refrigeration leakage emissions from its food stores and distribution centres by 53% and cut its transport-related emissions by 34%.

The Co-operative knows it has a long way to go to halve its emissions but it remains hopeful – citing its variety of carbon cutting techniques, from the spectacular to the everyday.

“Achieving a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 requires a huge programme of work across all aspects of our operations. Projects underway range from the massive, such as the construction of our new ‘BREEAM Outstanding’ head office in Manchester, to the seemingly mundane such as putting doors on ‘open’ refrigeration units in 2,000 stores by 2020, potentially saving 20% of the energy used by each store,” the company said.

The success of the Co-operative’s carbon cutting policies are a result of training its staff at grass roots level, as well as utilising a head office based team that manages its overall energy programme.

The company invested £13 million this year in energy efficiency store features, demonstrating a dedicated commitment to carbon cutting.

These features include the installation of LED lighting in store and in fridge cabinets, and introducing fridges that run on hydrocarbons.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS: The Co-op’s carbon management initiative is fully rounded, and covers everything including doors on fridges, employee training, investment in renewables, corporate reporting and, crucially, a willingness to look at what’s going wrong as well as what’s going right. It’s systematic, it’s specific, there’s measurement in place and it demonstrates results clearly

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Heathrow Airport
BAFTA Albert Consortium

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Energy Efficiency: Sainsbury’s

Waste Management: Food & Drink: Sainsbury’s

Sustainability Reporting: Coca Cola Enterprises

Renewable Energy: Northumbrian Water Group

Best Environmental Consultancy: Arup

Sustainability Practitioner: Kirsten Henson, KLH Sustainability

Water Management: ABP Food Group

Sustainable Transport: London 2012

Sustainable Building: P+HS Architects

Carbon Management: The Co-operative Group

Stakeholder Engagement: Sony Europe

Waste & Resource Management: Nextek

Sustainability Communications: The Co-operative Group

IEMA Graduate Award: Lorna Philbin

Sustainability Leader: Dale Vince, Ecotricity


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