Race to Zero: Retailers forge new climate-focused collaboration

Each of the four founding retailers already has climate targets aligned with Race to Zero requirements - unlike 95% of the global sector. Image: Walmart

The initiative is being operated in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the COP26 High-Level Climate Action Champions initiative, as part of the Race to Zero Breakthroughs scheme.

Launched in January, the Race to Zero Breakthroughs aims to deliver near-term “tipping points” for decarbonisation in the world’s largest and most-emitting business sectors. Aside from retail, collaborations were floated for sectors including finance, water, aviation, energy and manufacturing.

The retail initiative has been created in recognition of the fact that just 5% of retail businesses – by total global industry revenues – have committed to reducing the emissions of their value chains in line with the Paris Agreement.

Members will be encouraged to set net-zero targets by 2050 at the latest, with interim commitments to halve emissions by 2030. Such goals should be backed up by science-based targets. To help new joiners to set these commitments, the initiative will provide guidance and access to networks and real-life, best-practice case studies.

The four founding firms already have net-zero pledges in place. H&M Group, which owns brands including Monki and Arket as well as its namesake, is targeting climate positivity (reducing more emissions than its value chain emits) by 2040. Walmart has a 2040 net-zero target covering its global operations. Kingfisher recently announced 1.5C-aligned science-based targets for emissions across all scopes, with a net-zero deadline to be announced. As for Ingka Group, a headline commitment of the firm’s flagship ‘People and Planet Positive’ sustainability strategy is delivering climate-positivity by 2030.

“This campaign is a call to retailers everywhere to take ambitious climate action as they increasingly recognize the risks posed by climate change across their supply chains and operations,” WBCSD president and chief executive Peter Bakker said.

“The climate emergency, together with the loss of nature and rising inequalities, is the greatest and most complex challenges of our time. Only by joining forces and collectively rethinking the industries, like retail, will it be possible to tackle it.”

While the new scheme is global in scope, there are already net-zero collaborations underway in the British retail sector specifically. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has received more than 60 signatories to a new climate action roadmap, designed to transition the sector to net-zero by 2040. Elsewhere, the Zero Carbon Forum initiative is uniting some of the UK’s largest restaurant, food-to-go and pub and bar chains to develop a pathway to net-zero ahead of the legal deadline of 2050.

Sustainable Business Covered podcast: Can we deliver a green recovery for UK retail?

Readers interested in sustainability for the retail sector are encouraged to stream a recent edie podcast episode on the topic, featuring exclusive interviews with the BRC, the Woodland Trust and Mi Apparel. 

Hosted in recognition of “non-essential” retailers in the UK being able to reopen this season after Covid-19-related restrictions, the episode explores how retailers are working to accelerate sustainability action as they recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic – and what more must be done to support them. 

Listen to this podcast episode here.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Kim Warren says:

    They could make a big start by agreeing and implementing clear, simple carbon-emission labelling on all products, so consumers can avoid high-emission items.

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