Tesco falls behind on climate-friendly refrigerant target

Tesco has fallen behind in its efforts to make 150 stores in the UK Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) free by 2012, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Authors of the report expressed concern over Tesco’s “apparent slowdown” of its plans, set in 2009, to increase the number of HFC-free stores this year, with only 60 from an intended 150.

The EIA added that the retail giant has recently built 60 new stores in Poland which run on an HFC refrigerant blend with a high global warming potential.

“As the biggest retailer in the UK, we’re concerned that Tesco is not on track to meet its target. Tesco should be aiming to roll-out HFC-free refrigeration in all new stores in Europe”, said EIA senior campaigner Fionnuala Walravens.

Tesco has, however, made some progress in going HFC-free outside the UK, with 35 HFC-free stores in Hungary. The company has also reduced its direct emissions by 23% from last year’s “effects of conversion to CO2 refrigeration”.

A Tesco spokesperson told edie: “We have an ambitious and far reaching climate change strategy and have made a commitment to halving emissions from our stores by 2020, and we are making very good progress. As part of this overarching target, we are introducing natural refrigeration units.

“We had hoped to roll out 150 by the end of this year, but unfortunately the technology we initially used in our natural units failed to meet our high expectations.

“Following a reassessment of the technology in 2011, we are now installing systems that meet these expectations and we are continuing with the planned roll out. We are also working with the CGF [Consumer Goods Forum] to help move the industry towards widespread natural refrigerant use.”

Other supermarket chains, such as Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, have been praised for their rapid roll-out of climate-friendly refrigeration, with Waitrose now running a quarter of its estate on HFC-free systems.

“We’ve been impressed by the level of commitment to climate-friendly refrigeration shown by retailers across Europe,” said EIA global environment campaigner Natasha Hurley.

“Supermarkets have come a long way in the past four years and there is clearly an understanding within the industry that HFCs need to be phased out.

“At a time when retailers are going to considerable lengths to reduce their carbon footprints, running cooling systems on highly potent greenhouse gases simply makes no sense.”

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie