Retail giants launch Race to Zero accelerator to get more businesses targeting net-zero

Some of the biggest brands in the retail industry have launched a new accelerator pledge, urging other businesses in the sector to sign up to the UN's Race to Zero campaign and set and achieve 1.5C-aligned carbon reduction targets.

Retail giants launch Race to Zero accelerator to get more businesses targeting net-zero

41% of consumers are currently willing to pay more for a product they believe to be sustainable, compared to 57% in 2020

Retail businesses such as H&M, Ikea, Kingfisher and Walmart are steering the new accelerator initiative as part of their role as members of the Race to Zero Breakthroughs.

Launched earlier this year, the Race to Zero Breakthroughs for the retail sector is operated in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the COP26 High-Level Climate Action Champions initiative.

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.

The founding members, which have been joined by Best Buy, have this week launched a Race to Zero Accelerator Pledge for retail associations at COP26.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Australian Retail Association have joined the Race to Zero Accelerator Pledge and will work with their retail members to 20% signed up to the Race to Zero within the next 24 months.

The BRC’s chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “We are delighted to be the first major retail association to sign the Race to Zero Retail Accelerator Pledge, as part of BRC’s Climate Action Roadmap. Working with Race to Zero as an accelerator programme strengthens our roadmap, providing another catalyst to go faster and further on the industry’s ground-breaking journey to Net Zero.”

Decarbonisation progress

Analysis of the climate footprint of dozens of the UK’s best-known retailers has revealed that the sector’s carbon emissions are down 49% on 2005 levels.

Published by the BRC, the figures cover more than 25% of the UK’s retail sector by turnover, accounting for all consortium members disclosing their carbon emissions. Sources of emissions covered include store operations and deliveries to and from stores.

The BRC had set its retailer members a target to deliver a 25% absolute reduction in emissions between 2005 and 2020. Overall, this target was far exceeded.

Despite this strong progress, the BRC said in a statement that there is “still much more” to be done to deliver the sector’s collaborative transition to net-zero by 2040 – ten years ahead of the UK Government’s legally binding deadline.

Report: Can the retail sector deliver a green recovery?

edie has published a report detailing how retailers can build back better from the coronavirus pandemic by aligning long-term strategies with the need to combat the climate crisis, foster new innovations and ultimately spur a green recovery.

The report has been created in assistance with Reconomy and uses exclusive results from edie’s green recovery survey of 243 sustainability and energy professionals. This retail report has also been produced with guidance from in-depth discussions with a steering panel of sustainability experts from some of the world’s most respected retail firms in the vanguard of sustainability leadership.

Click here to read the report.

Matt Mace

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