John Lewis Partnership brings net-zero target forward to 2035

The retailer operates on a model whereby all staff are 'Partners' in the business. Image: JLP

Developed in light of the impact of Covid-19 on the British high street, the plan is headlined by commitments to grow John Lewis Partnerships’ online offering; expand digital services and develop more affordable product ranges.

But it also contains several major commitments around emissions, waste and ethics. The retailer’s net-zero target, which was set at 2050 before the UK Government enshrined this deadline in law, has been moved to 2035. It covers all of John Lewis Partnership’s Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions and the retailer will not purchase carbon credits to reach the goal.

In recognition of the fact that farms account for a large portion of the business’ Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, the new strategy commits the business to only sourcing from net-zero certified farms in the UK by 2035.

On waste, the strategy outlines new ambitions to halve food waste from operations and customers’ homes by 2030. WRAP data has shown that domestic waste and shop-level waste are two of the biggest contributors to the UK’s food waste mountain. Across the UK, customers binned more than £14.9bn of groceries in 2018.

Commitments to reach 100% recycled or sustainably sourced key raw materials across own-brand lines and to introduce ‘buy back’ or ‘take back’ offers for all product categories by 2025 also feature. Autumn 2019 saw John Lewis Partnership successfully trialling a fashion buy-back scheme and take-back schemes for clothes hangers and cosmetics packaging. The business said in a statement that circular economy models are “important to our customers”.

Reinventing retail

John Lewis Partnership’s chair Sharon White said the UK’s retail sector has seen “five years of change in the past five months” because of Covid-19. The new plan aims to pair the need for the sector to recover from the financial impact of lockdown restrictions with the trend towards conscious consumerism and ever-stricter environmental legislation.

On the former, PwC research found that a record 11,120 shops closed across the UK between January and June. Just 5,000 opened during that period, bringing the net loss of outlets to more than 6,000.

Other retailers shifting their business plans with sustainability in mind include Selfridges. The department store recently launched a string of events and pilot projects around sustainable materials sourcing and resource-efficient business models like repair, resale and rental.

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Sarah George

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