By Anders Lorenzen
The UK supermarket giant Sainsburys is frequently listed as one of the most sustainable UK companies. They have now set a series of new commitments that are likely to enhance their sustainability credentials. They have pledged to become a Net Zero company by 2040, this is in line with the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement commitments.
The company will focus on the reduction of carbon emissions, reducing food waste and plastic packaging. They will also look to reduce water usage, increase recycling rates and biodiversity, and to promote sustainable eating through a £1 billion programme. Additionally, the company says they will ask their suppliers for their own carbon reduction commitments.
The supermarket says that the sustainability A rating given to them by CDP for the past six years is the highest amongst any UK supermarkets. Their current carbon footprint is one million tonnes which they say is a 35% absolute reduction in the last 15 years, and this despite its shopping space increasing by 46% over the same period of time.
The plan in detail
The core of the plan is in the areas that tackle climate change. The supermarket chain says they will reduce emissions by increasing their use of renewables while also reducing overall energy consumption to reach Net-Zero. They will invest in innovative technology making fridges as efficient as possible. Already, the company says, 1,400 stores have been fitted with aerofoil technology which keeps fridges cool and aisles warm with a 15% energy saving. In addition, 15,547 tonnes of CO2 have been saved through a colleague behavioural project. They will also by 2025 make sure each store is powered by 20% of low carbon fuels, and by 2022 all the stores will be 100% lit by LEDs.
On reducing water usage, Sainsbury’s say they will move towards becoming water neutral by 2040. They report that they’re the first retailer to be certified with the Carbon Trust Water Standard as a result of using 1 billion fewer litres annually than in 2005. Water-saving is in place in 170 of their stores, which have been fitted with rainwater harvesting facilities, and these are now a standard in all newly opened stores. Additionally, they say will review how they’re using water across the business and explore what other measures can be taken.
The supermarket chain also committed to halving plastic packaging by 2025. They say that in 2019 alone they have removed a thousand tonnes of plastics across their business. They intend also to phase out other kinds of plastics such as the dark coloured plastic which is difficult to recycle. They also pledge to increase the use of recycling in their own operations while also making it easier for their customers to recycle. They’re piloting a Deposit Return Scheme in five stores where customers can recycle plastic bottles in exchange for 5p per item coupon towards their shopping.
Part of the supermarket`s strategy is also to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. They say they have developed innovative packaging and clearer labelling which will increase the shelf life of products which means less food going to waste.
Sainsbury’s also say they want to play a role in promoting healthy and sustainable diet habits. The company say they were the first UK supermarket to trial selling meat-alternative products in meat aisles which they did last year. However, the company did not say whether they intended to label their foods based on their carbon footprint, which many climate advocates are calling for.
Sainsbury’s state they will ensure that the impact of its operations is net positive for biodiversity.
They highlighted they have planted more than 3.8 million native trees over their fifteen-year partnership with The Woodland Trust. And they will work to plant 1.5 million native trees by 2025, which has the potential to mitigate 375,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. They say that they source 98.7% of palm oil used in 1,700 own-brand products from sustainable sources.
They pledged to continue to work on sustainable sourcing and, by 2025, will ensure that 100% of high-risk origin soy is certified as sustainable. However, they did not say whether they would stop sourcing brands which do not meet those criteria. The supermarket highlighted that in 2019 82.5% of wild-caught seafood and 100% of farmed seafood was sourced sustainably to an independent standard. Sainsbury’s say they are working towards 100% sustainably sourced seafood by the end of 2020.
The company states that all these steps will ensure that they are on course for Net-Zero a decade before the UK government’s deadlines. In addition, they say they will work with the Carbon Trust to assess emissions and set science-based targets for reduction, publicly reporting on progress every six months. The targets will align the business with the goal to limit climate change to 1.5°C, the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement.
The outgoing CEO of Sainsbury’s Mike Coupe said: “Our commitment has always been to help customers live well for less, but we must recognise that living well now also means living sustainably. We have a duty to the communities we serve to continue to reduce the impact our business has on the environment. And we are committing to reducing our own carbon emissions and to become Net Zero by 2040, ten years ahead of the government’s own targets, because 2050 isn’t soon enough.”