Marks & Spencer criticised for lack of progress on HFC-free refrigeration

15th October 2014

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Nigel Coulshed

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has stripped Marks & Spencer (M&S) of its recognition as a "green cooling leader" for failing to move to HFC-free refrigeration.

The campaign group yesterday published its annual report of retailers’ progress in moving away from refrigeration technology containing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are powerful greenhouse gases more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide.

Commercial refrigeration accounts for one third of the world’s HFC consumption, according to the EIA.

In the report, the agency acknowledges that M&S now has 84 stores that use natural refrigerants. However, these are mostly HFC/CO2 hybrids, which the EIA says should be a stepping-stone towards 100% natural refrigeration rather than “an end-point in itself”.

M&S is expanding a trial of HFC-free refrigeration systems to five locations, the report says. However, a spokesperson for the retailer said that it could not give any further information on the trial at the moment.

M&S has also made no progress on rolling out fridges with doors which it has been piloting since 2011, the EIA claimed.

The spokesperson explained that M&S had trialled doors on fridges at one store in 2011, but this had not been successful. The retailer now has a commitment to retrofit doors on fridges in existing stores and will piloting several options next year, she said.

The retailer’s target to reduce emissions from refrigeration by 50% by 2015 compared to 2007 levels had been met two years early, and last year its emissions were down 73%, she added.

Tesco and Waitrose have retained their status as “green cooling leaders”. The EIA highlights Tesco’s rapid increase in use of natural refrigerants, which has increased by 30% in the past year. All of its distribution centres are HFC-free, according to the report. In the UK, 50% of Tesco Express stores and all new Metro stores have doors on fridges.

Waitrose is now operating HFC-free systems in 36% of stores and uses natural refrigerant in 95% of its distribution centres.

However, neither supermarket is using natural refrigerants in delivery vehicles, the EIA pointed out.

Overall, the agency said it was pleased with the speed of adoption of HFC-refrigeration in supermarkets across the world. In the past two years, the number of stores in Europe using natural refrigerants had grown from 730 to 1,889, it said.

However, the report highlights a pressing need for doors on fridges. “Despite remarkable energy savings, and associated cost reductions, retailers’ fear of sales impacts has blocked action on this critical issue.

"The fact that other retailers are adopting doors on fridges suggests these fears are unfounded,” it states. Policymakers should step in on this issue, the EIA concluded.

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