Sainsbury’s invests £1bn to hit ‘net zero’ by 2040

Sainsbury’s has announced plans to invest £1 billion towards making its operations emit a ‘net zero’ of emissions by 2040.

The supermarket chain stated it would take action to cut carbon emissions, food waste, plastic packaging and water use, while increasing recycling and sustainable initiatives.

The 2040 goal puts it in line with the international Paris Agreement to curb temperature rises to 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels. The UK has set a legally binding target to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Sainsbury’s added that it will also work with suppliers to set their own ambitious net zero commitments.

Practically, the company will shift to using more renewable energy, making fridges as efficient as possible, running 20 per cent of its fleet on zero and low-carbon fuels by 2025 and switching all lighting in stores to LEDs by 2022.

It will fit stores with rainwater harvesting facilities, lower the amount of water in bathrooms and recycle water from ice on fish counters and car washes.

The grocery giant also pledged to halve plastic packaging by 2025, while by the end of 2020, it aims to have removed dark-coloured, hard-to-recycle plastic and polystyrene packaging from own-brand ranges, as well as removing plastic film on fruit and vegetables where possible.

The retailer is also piloting a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, continuing work to plant trees, and expanding the meat alternatives it sells.

Outgoing chief executive Mike Coupe commented: “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.”

He added that Sainsbury’s had already reduced carbon emissions by 35 per cent over 15 years, despite the footprint of the business growing by 40 per cent; and had invested £260 million in more than 3,000 initiatives in the last decade.

“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,” Coupe concluded.

Sainsbury’s is not the first supermarket to commit to such sustainable initiatives, with Iceland trialling reverse vending machines in 2018, Asda and Tesco piloting refill stations, and just last week Tesco announcing plans to reduce 350 tonnes of plastic per year by getting rid of its plastic-wrapped multibuy packs of beans, soups, sweetcorn and tuna.

As well as being an ethical move, these changes will be lauded by the 60.7 per cent of shoppers that consider product sustainability to be important when purchasing food and grocery, according to data and analytics company GlobalData’s 2019 ‘How Britain Shops’ survey.

Will Broome, chief executive and founder of Ubamarket, commented: "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."

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