Tesco’s food waste win and an Earthshot Prize milestone: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and business leadership.

Across the UK and across the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: Brakes switches on second major rooftop solar array


Last summer, we covered news that wholesale foodservice supplier Brakes had completed its first major rooftop solar array, on its depot in Harlow, Essex.

Now, the business is celebrating the completion of another 2,400-panel rooftop solar system, at another depot located in Aylesford, Kent. Brakes’ parent company Sysco is notably aiming to switch to 100% renewable electricity and self-generation will play a key part in meeting this ambition.

Sysco GB’s director of engineering and environment Peter Owen said the company’s ambition is to “roll this out and install solar wherever possible across our estate”. “This is key to our decarbonisation strategy,” he added, noting the business’s target to cut its absolute emissions by 27.5% between 2019 and 2030.

RESOURCES: Tesco surpasses food waste targets


Tesco was the UK’s first supermarket to report on levels of waste from its operations and has, since making that move in 2013, called on other retailers to follow suit, and for a national mandate on this kind of reporting.

This week, the retailer confirmed that it is now redistributing 88% of the surplus food generated across its UK business. This means it has surpassed a target to redistribute 85%, set in 2016 with a 2025 deadline.

Tesco uses a number of channels for food surplus redistribution, including a charitable partnership with FareShare and separate work with food sharing app Olio. It also hosts an initiative giving store workers access to free surplus food.

The 12% of surplus food that Tesco was not able to redistribute is converted into animal feed where possible.

Tesco’s food surplus project manager Cheryl Wetherburn said: “No-one wants to see good food go to waste. With so many people facing food insecurity in the UK, we are working harder than ever to make sure food gets to those who need it.”

MOBILITY: 1,000 automotive industry staff complete carbon literacy training


While an ever-increasing number of businesses are setting science-based targets to cut emissions, engaging employees to ensure they know their role in delivering these targets is a challenge for many. Our recent poll of more than 200 sustainability leaders revealed that engagement, education and behaviour change is a top-three challenge for the coming year.

It is good news, then, that the Carbon Literacy Project is marking 1,000 professionals completing its carbon literacy training for the automotive sector.

More than 100 businesses have supported staff to complete the training, which it co-funded and co-developed with Auto Trader. Participating firms include retailers, financiers, manufacturers, parts suppliers and EV charging operators.

Auto Trader’s chief executive Nathan Coe said: “The level of collaboration across the industry, and the pace at which the Toolkit has been embraced gives us confidence that it can be an important part of the industry’s journey towards sustainability.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: GPE posts strong progress with net-zero London developments


With demand for sustainable offices booming and as the capital works towards its 2030 net-zero target, many developers are forging ahead with innovative net-zero commercial schemes in central London. To name but a few, this year edie has covered

This week, Great Portland Estates (GPE) announced that 2 Aldermanbury Square (pictured above) will be verified as net-zero and will complete in December 2025. The office development will incorporate reused and recycled building materials from the previous site and will be built to stringent energy efficiency standards.

GPE also confirmed the sale of 50 Finsbury Square, an office development it completed last year and has subsequently certified as net-zero carbon in construction.

These announcements came after the unveiling of an updated sustainability strategy called ‘the time is now’. It includes a 2030 net-zero target and a goal to cut energy intensity in occupied buildings by 40% this decade. Meeting this target will involve a mix of digital monitoring, fabric improvements and nature-based solutions for shading.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: Earthshot Prize partners with YouTube for climate communications


Officially launched in October 2020, the Earthshot Prize was set up by Prince William and Kate Middleton to funnel £50m into climate and nature solutions through to 2050. The idea is that, each year, five innovators – each working on a different major global environmental issue – will each receive £1m in grant funding.

The Prize has this week announced a two-year partnership with YouTube to help amplify communications related to climate solutions.

Professionals on the Prize team will work with YouTube to develop video content, including a series answering common climate questions and another series dedicated to the relaxing and wellbeing properties of nature.

“At The Earthshot Prize we want to incentivise innovation and change to help repair our planet and partnering with YouTube, one of the world’s biggest platforms, allows us to do that on a truly global scale,” said Prize chief executive Hannah Jones.

Some 96% of adults in the UK are estimated to use YouTube at least once a month. Globally, the platform racks up views from more than 122 million people each day.

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