Retailers on track with ambitious sustainability targets

Britain's leading retailers are on track to meet ambitious voluntary targets set by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to reduce the direct environmental impact of the sector.

The BRC has released its first progress report – A Better Retailing Climate Progress Report January 2015 – on the achievements of its members, such as Boots, Debenhams and Sainsburys, against a range of targets set in 2014 spanning energy use, water and waste.

Participating retailers – which represent half of the UK retail market – achieved a 13% reduction in absolute carbon emissions between 2005-2014, with a 2020 target of a 25% reduction – a trajectory that goes beyond the UK and EU carbon reduction targets.

Carbon emissions from store deliveries have reduced by 34% between 2005 and 2014; and energy-related emissions from buildings have decreased by 30% between 2005 and 2014, with the target set at 50% by 2020.

When it comes to waste reduction, retailers have seen a significant drop in the amount of waste sent to landfill, down from 43% in 2005 to 7% in 2014. The BRC is aiming for its businesses to hit a target of only 1% of waste reaching landfill by 2020, with a shift in focus towards waste prevention and re-use.

As reported by edie earlier this month, the seven major supermarkets contributed just 1.3% of all food waste in the UK in 2013; having managed a 10% reduction between 2005 and 2012, accounting for just 200,000 tonnes out of 15 million tonnes.

Leading the way

A water reduction target has yet to be set by the Better Retailing Climate initiative, with retailers instead aiming to have measured 100% of water usage by 2020 – so far, they are measuring 90% of usage, up from 65% in 2005. A reduction target will be set at a review of the targets in 2015. BRC members have also committed to working closer with suppliers to reduce water use throughout the supply chain.

Commenting on the progress report, BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Retailers continue to lead the way in reducing the impact of the products they sell and adapting to the challenges of climate change. This shows we can meet the ambitious targets to reduce environmental impact by 2020 when we invest in our supply chain and work closely with consumers.”

Retail is the second highest energy consuming industry in the UK with a total cost of energy to retail in 2013 of £3.2bn. Retailers will be undertaking audits in line with the Government’s upcoming Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) over the next 12 months; to identify energy efficiency opportunities which could considerably reduce operational emissions.

Lucinda Dann

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