The key takeaway points are set out below along with the webinar recording:
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has recently launched an economy-wide net zero standard ahead of COP26.
In the UK, the retail sector is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, with value chain emissions of approximately 215 MtCO2e (million tonnes CO2-equivalent) per year. This means that the retail sector can contribute significantly to the decarbonisation of the UK economy.
At present only 5% of retail businesses by total global industry revenues have committed to reducing emissions in line with a 1.5°C target.
Retail businesses are encouraged to join the Race to Zero, the UN-backed global campaign to rally leadership and support from all non-state actors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery. There are two ways businesses can join the Race to Zero:
The SME Climate Hub. This is the main Race to Zero partner for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
Changes in consumer preference will play an important role in the sector’s transition to net zero. High proportions of retailer emissions are from use of purchased goods (56% in the case of Aesop and 42% in the case of Tesco):
To address this, Tesco are increasing the availability of lower-carbon products such as meat free alternatives.
Aesop believes that customers should not be held responsible for the emissions which they emit whilst using purchased products, instead the company should reduce the product-associated emissions. In Aesop’s case, this is being done by advancing sustainable packaging projects.
Choice editing can play a role, but it risks putting companies at a competitive disadvantage. Therefore, it is preferable to drive demand for low-emission products through increased awareness of climate impacts.
Retailers can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by decarbonising their logistics:
Tesco are utilising train and river networks to transport goods in a low-carbon way, although the capacity of these modes of transport is limited and cannot currently be fully relied upon for all transport needs.
The UK Government is required to support the decarbonisation of logistics through upgrading infrastructure and investing in suitable technologies.
Supply chain emissions can make up a large proportion of a retail company’s emissions:
Companies at an early stage of their net zero journey should begin this process by mapping their supply chain and compiling relevant emissions data.
Companies should then consider setting joint sustainability targets with suppliers (such as circular economy related targets) and incentivising suppliers to set science-based emissions reduction targets (as Tesco are doing).
CDP offer a supply chain membership, which enables companies to request their key suppliers to report environmental data through questionnaires. This allows for standardisation of data collection.