Supermarkets’ big sustainability sweep


The news is awash with major supermarkets making sustainability pledges, as Tesco, Asda and now Sainsbury’s, too, declare plans to up their game and take environmental issues more seriously in their retailing strategies.

What began in June 2019 with Waitrose launching a refill station called Unpacked (pictured) in its Oxford store – later extending the trial to Cheltenham, Wallingford and Abingdon – has this month been followed by Tesco’s aim to remove 350 tonnes of plastic a year from the environment by eradicating plastic wrapping from its multi-pack tins, and Asda’s trial of a sustainability store, allowing shoppers to refill Asda products using their own containers.

Now, Sainsbury’s has become the most recent supermarket to commit to sustainability initiatives, announcing on 28 January an investment of £1 billion to commit to an extensive plastic and food waste reduction plan. Their goal? To become carbon neutral by 2040.

2050 isn’t soon enough

Citing a 35% reduction over the past 15 years, Sainsbury’s carbon footprint currently sits at one million tonnes. The chain will now work with the Carbon Trust to ‘assess emissions and set science-based targets for reduction’, and extend its targets from its own operations to the value chain.

Mike Coupe, CEO, Sainsbury’s, comments: “Our commitment has always been to help customers live well for less, but we must recognize 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 reduce our own carbon emissions and become Net Zero by 2040, ten years ahead of the government’s own targets, because 2050 isn’t soon enough.

“We have a strong heritage of reducing our carbon emissions. We invested £260 million in over 3,000 initiatives over the last decade, including the start of our LED lighting programme and refrigeration. Over the next 20 years we will invest a further £1 billion in programmes that will transform the way we do business and put environmental impact at the forefront of every decision we make.

Not only is it the right thing to do for the environment, but sustainable retailers are likely going to see increased profits and success long term

“We recognize that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the changes needed to help the planet exist sustainably. We have over 27 million customers each week and almost 180,000 colleagues and we hope that we can collaborate across industries and sectors to help create momentum and drive meaningful change. Only when the trajectory for global warming slows to a maximum of 1.5 degrees will we all know that we can truly live well for less now and in the future.”

Will Broome, CEO of shopping app Ubamarket, adds: “It’s extremely encouraging to see some of Britain’s food retail giants taking major steps towards creating a more sustainable future for the food retail sector, and retail across the board. It is imperative that other retailers take heed of this and work quickly to establish their own sustainability goals and action plan. Not only is it the right thing to do for the environment, but sustainable retailers are likely going to see increased profits and success long term, as shoppers become more eco-friendly and the government introduces further legislation. It is my hope that we see more sustainability initiatives … in the coming weeks and months.”