Sainsbury’s granted water self-supply licence

Sainsbury's is widely regarded as a leader on water stewardship in the UK's retail sector

The licence means that Sainsbury’s will be able to pay wholesale water prices, skipping the retail margin. It will also become a member of the Self-Supply User Forum – a business-led collaboration where firms collectively advance best practice in water efficiency through investment in innovation and piloting new, more efficient systems and processes.

According to the supermarket’s application, sent to Ofwat following collaboration with water services firm Waterscan, the licence will cover all of Sainsbury’s’ sites in England, including its 900 Argos stores. Properties used by Sainsbury’s’ Tu, Habitat, Bank and Nectar brands will also be covered.

Sainsbury’s claims that it has mitigated the consumption of one billion litres of water since financial year 2005/6, against a ‘business-as-usual’ trajectory. It hopes that the licence will drive progress towards its 2040 ambition to become ‘water-neutral’ and estimates that self-supply could halve its water consumption within a decade.

“I’m confident that a self-supply licence will enable Sainsbury’s to build on its leadership position in responsible retailing and accelerate progress towards its sustainability goals, including its recent commitment to become net-zero by 2040,” Waterscan’s managing director Neil Pendle said.

Pendle is referring here to Sainsbury’s’ net-zero strategy, published in January. Sainsbury’s is backing the strategy with £1bn in investment, to be spent on a raft of programme changes to reduce carbon emissions. 

Plans that carry water

Back in 2017, Sainsbury’s became the first UK retailer to achieve the Carbon Trust’s Water Standard. This certification is only awarded to organisations which have reduced their water use on a year-on-year basis for at least three years.

The firm’s move to apply for water self-supply sees it follow in the footsteps of Greene King, Whitbread, Marston’s, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola European Partners, BT, Heineken and John Lewis & Partners – the latter of which was the first UK retailer to be granted a licence by Ofwat.

Since John Lewis & Partners submitted its application in September 2019, Asda and Homebase have begun to explore the benefits of a licence with WaterScan.

 Ofwat claims that most large companies to have selected self-supply have “particularly demonstrated the scope for business customers to achieve water savings… continuing to report advantages of this type of business model, including price savings, better control of their data and the ability to achieve water efficiency savings”.

Sarah George

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