£1bn plan includes increase in renewable energy and innovative refrigeration technology © J Sainsbury plc
£1bn plan includes increase in renewable energy and innovative refrigeration technology © J Sainsbury plc

Sainsbury's plans to be net zero by 2040

28 January 2020

Sainsbury’s has announced commitments to become net zero by 2040, including collaborating with suppliers to achieve emissions reductions.

The retailer will implement a £1bn sustainability programme to reduce carbon emissions, food waste, plastic packaging, water usage, and increase recycling. 

Carbon emissions will be cut through the use of more renewable energy and innovative technology for efficient refrigeration, alternative zero and low-carbon fuels for its fleet and 100% LED lighting. 

It will “collaborate across industries and sectors” and “work with suppliers to set their own ambitious net zero commitments, in line with the Paris Agreement goals”.

Sainsbury’s plans to work with sustainability consultancy the Carbon Trust to assess its emissions, set science-based targets for reduction, report on progress publicly every six months and minimise the use of water in its operations to be “water neutral” by 2040.

Mike Coupe, CEO at Sainsbury’s, said: “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, 10 years ahead of the government’s own targets, because 2050 isn’t soon enough.”

Coupe added that carbon emissions had reduced by 35% over the past 15 years despite business increasing by over 40%, and £260m had been invested in over 3,000 initiatives, including the LED lighting programme and refrigeration. 

According to the firm, plastic packaging will be halved by 2025, food waste will be halved by 2030, and hard-to-recycle plastic and polystyrene own-brand packaging will be replaced with sustainable alternatives by the end of this year. 

Alongside current recycling schemes, Sainsbury’s aims to recycle more operational waste and provide more recycling facilities for clothing, metal cans, glass, paper, and batteries.

The environmental impacts of its operations will be “net positive”, and it will “continue to work on sustainable sourcing and will ensure that 100% of high-risk origin soy meal is zero forestation and certified as sustainable by 2025”.

John Perry, managing director at consultancy SCALA, said: “The announcement is somewhat undermined by the notable omission of any concrete pledges to improve the environmental credentials of Sainsbury’s supplier network, which is responsible for most of the chain’s emissions. 

“To create net-zero pledges that achieve major, long-term gains, businesses should ensure their environmental stance is properly reflected by their supplier network, which means partnering with suppliers that share their sustainability values and goals.” 

Perry added that businesses should prioritise longer-term and more strategic relationships with their partners and establish and communicate expectations through a supplier code of conduct.

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