20 UK retailers to jointly plot course to net-zero ahead of national deadline
Boots, Next and Marks & Spencer (M&S) are among the 20 major retailers who have this week pledged to jointly develop a net-zero roadmap for the retail sector, with a target more ambitious than the national 2050 requirement.
In a declaration coordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the coalition of retailers vowed to publish a roadmap in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, which was due to take place this winter but has now been postponed to November 2021.
The group will work with each other, environmental experts from the BRC and third parties to define the roadmap’s overarching pre-2050 deadline and create specific, time-bound measures towards complete net decarbonisation.
Three key areas, regarded as the UK retail sector’s largest sources of emissions, will be analysed: upstream supply chains, customers and direct operations. The latter of these pillars covers shops, distribution centres, warehouses, transport and logistics.
The BRC claims that there is currently no other net-zero roadmap for the UK’s retail sector that encompasses all of these emissions sources.
“We recognise that as retailers we are uniquely placed to support the UK’s journey to a low-carbon future,” the Consortium's declaration states.
“By working collectively with our employees, customers, suppliers, Government and other stakeholders, we are confident we can overcome the shared barriers we face to tackling climate change and help the UK lead the way towards a better society and a better planet.”
Signing the declaration are Aldi UK, Amazon UK, the Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland, Boots UK, Central England Co-operative, Co-op, Costa Coffee, Dixons Carphone, Greggs, IKEA UK & Ireland, Kingfisher, Lidl GB, M&S, Missguided, Musgrave, Next, Ocado, TJX, WH Smith and Morrison’s. Several of these firms have already unveiled net-zero targets deadlined at 2050 or sooner.
The BRC’s hope is that, once published, additional retailers will commit to following the roadmap on a voluntary basis. The Government could then mandate some or all of its facets, or simply run communications promoting the tool.
Feeling the crunch
The announcement for the BRC comes at a challenging time for the retail sector. Non-essential retailers in the UK were first permitted to open after lockdown on 23 June, meaning that those without online channels faced a complete halt in sales. Even businesses with online stores have faced challenges with social distancing in warehouses or the supply chain, and with changing consumer demands as lifestyles and budgets altered overnight.
According to the BRC, lockdown cost non-essential retailers a collective total of £1.8bn per week in lost sales. As the UK emerges into some form of ‘new normal’, many retailers have taken the decision to reduce their estates and staff bases, including John Lewis and Harrods. Others, such as TM Lewin, Bensons for Beds and Laura Ashley, have filed for administration.
Nonetheless, the BRC does not believe that climate change has fallen down the agenda for the sector.