UK retail sector pledges to reach net-zero emissions by 2040

More than 60 leading retailers, including Pret UK, Burberry, Sainsbury's and Missguided, have pledged to support a new collaborative roadmap to transform the sector and its supply chain to net-zero emissions by 2040.

UK retail sector pledges to reach net-zero emissions by 2040

The announcement for the BRC comes at a challenging time for the retail sector

Convened through the British Retail Consortium (BRC), 63 businesses including Aldi, Asos, Kingfisher and Primark, have committed to a Climate Action Roadmap. The plan will help deliver a retail industry that will reach net-zero by 2040, including decarbonising stores by 2030, deliveries by 2035 and products by 2040.

The plans for the roadmap will be outlined in detail at the UNFCCC Race to Zero Dialogues today (10 November) but will include plans to reduce emissions from shops and distribution centres, creating net-zero logistics operations, increasing sustainable sourcing for products and helping customers and employees reduce emissions.

The BRC’s chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “Climate change is a threat that none of us can afford to ignore. The BRC Climate Action Roadmap is a clear and decisive statement that the retail industry is ready to take on this challenge – to be part of the solution. By 2040, we want every UK customer to be able to be able to make purchases – in store and online – safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to global heating.

“Never before has an entire industry been so ambitious in tackling climate change. Retail is the critical gateway between vast international supply chains and every one of us as citizens. We have a fantastic opportunity to make a real global difference if we can all work collectively.”

The 63 retailers are ALDI, All Saints, Ann Summers, AO, ASDA, ASOS, Barker and Stonehouse, Bensons for Beds, Body Shop, Booksellers Association, Boots, Burberry, Central England Co-operative, Co-op, Costa, DFS, Dixons Carphone, Dunelm, Greggs, Harvey Nichols, Iceland Foods, IKEA, John Lewis, Partnership, KFC, Kingfisher, Lidl, M&S, Matalan, McKesson UK, Missguided, Morrisons, Mountain Warehouse, Musgrave, N Brown, Natural History Museum, New Look, Next, Notonthehighstreet, Ocado Retail, Oliver Bonas, Paperchase, Pets at Home, Pret UK, Primark, Radley & Co, Reiss, River Island, Sainsburys, Schuh, Scotmid, Seasalt Limited, Simba Sleep, SPAR, Superdry, Ted Baker, Tempur UK, Timpson Group, TK Maxx & Home Sense, Very Group, WH Smith, Whittard of Chelsea, Wickes and Wilko.

Building blocks

It builds on the 20 retailers that first committed to the Roadmap. In July, 20 retailers including Boots, Next and Marks & Spencer (M&S) vowed to publish a roadmap in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, which was due to take place this week but has now been postponed to November 2021.

The group will work with each other, environmental experts from the BRC and third parties to define the roadmap’s overarching deadline and create specific, time-bound measures towards complete net decarbonisation.

Commenting on the announcement, Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change said: “Through the BRC Climate Action Roadmap, retailers are setting a world-leading industry ambition to reach net zero emissions. It’s a fundamental goal, requiring bold leadership from government and from commerce – I highly commend each retailer who supports this initiative.”

The announcement for the BRC comes at a challenging time for the retail sector. Non-essential retailers in the UK were first permitted to open after lockdown on 23 June, meaning that those without online channels faced a complete halt in sales. Even businesses with online stores have faced challenges with social distancing in warehouses or the supply chain, and with changing consumer demands as lifestyles and budgets altered overnight. The issuance of a second lockdown, this time spanning a month, has compounded these issues further.

According to the BRC, lockdown cost non-essential retailers a collective total of £1.8bn per week in lost sales. As the UK emerges into some form of ‘new normal’, many retailers have taken the decision to reduce their estates and staff bases, including John Lewis and Harrods. Others, such as TM Lewin, Bensons for Beds and Laura Ashley, have filed for administration.

Join the conversation at edie’s Net-Zero Live

It’s time for Net-Zero Live 2020. Taking place over three days (November 10-12) in a virtual format, this event includes high-level keynote talks, interactive panel discussions, facilitated networking sessions and educational masterclasses, as well as virtual exhibition booths showcasing the cutting-edge net-zero technologies and services that will shape the decade ahead.

Register now to hear from representatives of Unilever, the Committee on Climate Change, Inter Ikea Group and many more. Click here for registration forms and for the agenda

edie will also be publishing a report on how the retail sector can achieve a green recovery by embracing net-zero. It will be released in the coming weeks.

Matt Mace

Comments (1)

  1. Kim Warren says:

    Will this include accounting for emissions that are *not* included in the net-zero definition – notably those from shipping imported goods. I believe, for example, it costs 3+ tons of emissions to air-freight 1 ton of flowers from Africa or shrink-wrapped baby-corn from India.
    See for why the UK net-zero target is not truly for net-zero.

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