Iceland on track to become a net-zero business by 2042

Iceland Foods has revealed that it has reduced its operational emissions footprint by 74% since 2011, despite growing the business, putting it on track to reach net-zero by 2042.

Iceland had been targeting a 30% cut to emissions between 2011 and 2020, but has delivered a 74% decrease. Image: Iceland/Webershandwick 

Iceland had been targeting a 30% cut to emissions between 2011 and 2020, but has delivered a 74% decrease. Image: Iceland/Webershandwick 

In an update published today (27 July), the supermarket revealed that it is on track to emit 46,000 tonnes of CO2e through Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions, down from 250,000 tonnes from these sources in 2011. This is despite the fact that an additional 181 Iceland stores have opened over the past nine years.

As such, Iceland will now need to develop new emissions goals. Its old goals, launched in 2011, were to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% by 2020, rising to 60% by 2030. At the time, the business believed it could achieve carbon neutrality or net-zero by 2050. It now sees 2042 as a reasonable deadline for its long-term emissions goal and has said it is willing to move this date forward should it exceed future targets.

Iceland has said it will work with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to ensure that its new targets will be aligned with the Paris Agreement. Once an organisation makes such a commitment, it has 24 months to develop goals and have them approved.

“Over the past decade, we have worked with our partners and invested in technology to drive down our carbon emissions by nearly three quarters despite adding nearly 200 stores to our estate,” Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said.

“This is the start of formal carbon reporting and our next steps will be to review the use of Science-Based Targets and to create a project-based approach to working with our suppliers.”

Walker attributes the supermarket’s success in decoupling emissions from growth over the past nine years to investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The business purchases 100% renewable electricity for all stores; has been replacing all freezers with efficient versions that use natural refrigerants and consume 30% less energy; replaced all signage lighting with LED bulbs in 2012 and all store lighting with LED bulbs in 2017. It has also installed automatic lighting controllers in all stores, synchronising lighting to trading times and security alarms.

Other retailers aiming to reach net-zero ahead of the UK Government’s 2050 deadline include Sainsbury’s, which has a 2040 deadline, and the British Retail Consortium’s net-zero roadmap coalition. Members of the 20-strong business coalition include Boots, Marks & Spencer’s (M&S), Dixons Carphone, Lidl GB and WH Smith.

Indirect impact

According to CDP, the average corporation produces five-and-a-half-times more emissions from its supply chain that through its direct operations.

As such, more and more businesses are moving to set targets for Scope 3 (indirect) emissions as they seek to align with the Paris Agreement or to comply with legally binding net-zero targets.

Iceland has not yet developed Scope 3 emissions targets but, in order to be certified as 1.5C-aligned by the SBTi, it will need to do so.

Walker has confirmed that Iceland will measure and report on the life-cycle emissions associated with packaging for its own-label lines, including manufacturing and end-of-life going forward, amid warnings that the carbon footprint of the global plastics packaging sector will rise dramatically in the coming decades.

Emissions from third-party logistics companies are also a key focus area for the supermarket. Iceland says it will “work closely” with such firms, like XPO Logistics, to improve efficiencies and accelerate the shift to low-carbon transport. However, time-bound, numerical targets are yet to be developed.

Beyond its own operations, Iceland, like many UK-based corporates, has been urging policymakers to deliver a green Covid-19 recovery package. Walker and his team have been vocal supporters of new policy measures to align the UK with Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger – which would require the nation’s food waste footprint to halve within a decade. They are also calling for further measures to help businesses build resilient and local supply chains and invest in low-carbon buildings, and for a green economy skills strategy to help retrain those left unemployed by the pandemic for work in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly set to launch a dedicated fund for reskilling Brits to work in the renewable energy, cleantech and built environment sectors, coupled with additional investment in these sectors to assist with their expansion, at the Summer Economic Update. Such a scheme was not forthcoming may now launch at the Autumn Statement or after the 2021 Budget.

Sarah George



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