Retailers pledge to cut CO2 by 20%

31st January 2014

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Debenhams, McDonalds and WH Smith are among high-street names that have signed up to voluntary 2020 targets on waste, energy and greenhouse gases

Twenty-five members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), including all of the UK's major supermarkets, have agreed to a second round of targets under the BRC's "A better retailing climate" initiative.

The firms, which represent 50% of the UK's retail sector by turnover, have agreed to reduce absolute carbon emissions from their operations by 25% on 2005 levels by 2020, as well as further improving the energy-efficiency of their buildings and diverting more waste from landfill, after beating their first set of sustainability targets in 2013.

Signatories to the original targets agreed in 2008 to cut energy-related emissions from their buildings by 25% on 2005 levels by 2013, and ensure that less than 15% of their waste was going to landfill. BRC has now confirmed that the retailers had exceeded their targets, sending just 6% of waste to landfill in 2013 compared with 47% in 2005, and reducing energy-related emissions by 30%.

Under the new targets, which will be reviewed and potentially tightened in 2015, the firms must reduce energy-related emissions by 50%, send less than 1% of waste to landfill, cut emissions of refrigeration gases by 80% and ensure they measure all water use.

Helen Dickinson, director general at the BRC, praised the progress that UK retailers had made in tackling their environmental impacts the past decade.

"I'm delighted that the signatories are pushing themselves to achieve against even more ambitious commitments, having gone above and beyond the last set of targets," she said. "Retailers will continue to keep this momentum going: they recognise that it makes business sense and delivers real environmental benefits."

Environment secretary Owen Paterson, who attended the launch of the 2020 targets, said: "This initiative has been very successful in showing how industry can reduce the environmental impact of the retail sector. It also highlights how it is possible to grow businesses in a sustainable way that is not only good for the environment, but for the economy as well."

In a progress report, the BRC outlines areas where it feels government policy is hampering the sector's sustainability efforts. It calls for simplification of environment policies alongside "a long-term, clear and committed vision for low carbon in the UK", saying that retailers need more certainty to make the necessary investments.

The report also comments on biodiversity loss in the UK, arguing that the government must "move from piecemeal conservation action towards a more integrated landscape-scale approach", with a framework to assess changes to natural capital assets.

The BRC also wants the government to set targets ensuring all palm oil imported into the UK is from sustainable sources.

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