Tesco cuts carbon emissions 13% in a year

Tesco has revealed that it reduced its carbon emissions by 13% in 2017 against a 2016 baseline, as it strives towards a science-based target of becoming a carbon-neutral business by 2050.

The Group, which has more than 3,400 stores in the UK, estimates that it has reduced its net carbon intensity per sq ft of retail and distribution floor space by 6% compared with last year, and 15% since 2015-2016.

The retailer’s annual report additionally shows that it is on track to meet its 2020 goal of sourcing 65% of the Tesco Group’s electricity from renewable sources, rising to 100% by 2030, having sourced 55% of its electricity from renewables in 2017-2018.

“After three years of turnaround, the results we’ve shared for this year show that we are firmly on track and delivering on our commitments,” Tesco Group’s chief executive Dave Lewis said. “I am pleased with the progress we have made, and excited by the opportunities ahead.”

Last May, Tesco’s long-term emissions reductions plan was approved by the independent Science-Based Targets Initiative, which aims to help businesses reduce emissions in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increase below 2C. In fact, Tesco is just one of three businesses – alongside BT and Carlsberg – to have a target approved in line with a 1.5C trajectory.

The retail giant, which employs around 440,000 people in the UK, has set goals to reduce its absolute carbon emissions from its operations by 35% by 2020, 60% by 2025 and 100% by 2050 against a 2015-2016 baseline.

Tesco is also signed up to the RE100 platform, committing to expand renewable electricity across the business through a blend of grid power purchase agreements (PPAs) and onsite generation. Tesco has already switched to 100% renewable-certified purchased electricity across its operations in the UK.

Packaging and food waste challenges

Tesco’s annual report also included an update on its packaging goals, including its aim to make all packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025. The retailer said it “recognises that it can do more in partnership with government and industry to help establish a robust, closed loop approach to recover and reuse all key packaging materials”, noting in the report that 87% of its own brand packaging by weight is now widely recyclable.

The report highlights the fact that the retailer last year made “significant changes” to its own brand wet wipes packaging, resulting in a 20% reduction in the material used and thereby saving 57 tonnes of plastic since its advent. In related news, Tesco announced its support for a “cost-effective” deposit return scheme on packaging earlier this year and in 2017, committed to end the sale of microbeads from its products.

As for food waste, the report revealed that Tesco had failed to hit its two-year target of eliminating all food waste from its UK operations by the end of 2017/18, with independent analysis from KPMG finding that the company made it two-thirds of the way to this aim.

However, Tesco has taken on more food that would otherwise be discarded at farm level over aesthetics and donated more surplus items to charities as a result of this lofty ambition. For example, it became the first UK supermarket to sell green satsumas and clementines last October, and has saved 6,000 tonnes of ‘wonky’ fruit and veg from landfill with its Perfectly Imperfect produce range so far.

Two of the brand’s major suppliers are additionally rolling out a range of juices made from apples, beetroot, strawberries and watermelons that fail to meet produce specifications this month.

The retailer is now calling on competitors and suppliers to champion transparency to enable the industry to collaboratively push towards the Sustainable Development Goal aim of halving food waste by 2030 after partnering with 25 of its largest suppliers in a bid to achieve this target internally.

Sarah George 

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