In 2010, the British retailer committed to a 15% reduction in absolute emissions by 2020/21, but the company’s annual report, released on Friday, revealed that emissions have instead risen by 13%.

The group, which owns John Lewis and Waitrose retail businesses, described the target as “exceptionally challenging”, especially given the company’s 33% business growth since 2010.

“We are therefore reviewing our future Carbon Plan targets in line with the Partnership’s projected growth rate… we will ensure that these changes do not deter from the partnership’s goal of reducing our environmental impact,” read the report.

‘Reasonable steps’

Written into the John Lewis partnership’s constitution is a commitment to “take all reasonable steps to minimise any detrimental effect its operations may have on the environment, and to promote good environmental practice”.

The report does point out that emissions/£m of sales – known as carbon intensity – have fallen by 15% since 2011 and by 0.5% since 2014.

A spokesperson for John Lewis told edie that this drop in carbon intensity could be put down to the introduction of new green technologies such as Water Cooled refrigeration and LED lights in all new branch openings, along with buildings becoming more efficient thanks to a group-wide refurbishment programme.

On-site renewables

The emission figures do not take into account a 2013 renewable electricity supply deal with SmartestEnergy, which now powers 380 Waitrose and John Lewis stores.

But the partership’s more recent forays into on-site renewables were described as “very challenging” by the report.

Nearly half of energy managers in a recent edie survey generated energy on-site, while Sainsbury’s head of sustainability Paul Crewe called the technology “vital” to the supermarket’s green ambition.

The report claims: “This year our trading was 53 weeks (usually 52) so in light of this, and an 11% increase in electricity emission factors, we believe our reduction in carbon intensity is good progress.”

– Transport

John Lewis is falling short of its 15% reduction target in transport, having only cut emissions by 3% since 2011.

The company attributes its slow progress to an increase in sales and associated deliveries, despite the use of 44 dual-fuel trucks, running on methane and diesel.

– Waste

The retailer is on track to meet its waste-to-landfill target of 98% by year-end 2015/16.

“We will continue to look for opportunities to increase the use of recycled materials in our buildings, and where possible, to make this a closed loop solution,” said the report.

For example in 2014, the sleeve packaging on certain ready meals was cut in half, saving 145 tonnes of packaging.

– Sourcing

The partnership has announced a commitment to source 50% of its cotton form sustainable sources by 2025.It also pledged to update its timber sourcing policy, seeking input from experts such as the Rainforest Alliance.

The company said it will supply more details in 2016 about reporting on sustainability issues in the supply chain. Major retailers have started to react to consumer desire for more supply-chain transparency, with both Adidas and H&M pledging to source more sustainable cotton in the last month.

Brad Allen

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