People, Environment

British Retailers Report Falling Carbon Emissions

British Retailers Report Falling Carbon EmissionsBritish Retailers Report Falling Carbon Emissions

UK retailers are on course to meet a host of environmental targets tackling food waste, carbon emissions, and water use by 2020 after a “pivotal year” in which the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the EU’s Circular Economy Package have all served to reshape the business landscape.

The British Retail Consortium on Tuesday published its updated sustainability metrics for 2015 as part of its A Better Retailing Climate Initiative, whose signatories include big retailers such as ASDA, Argos, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Next, and Homebase.

The figures show absolute carbon emissions across the group were cut 6% compared to 2014, and overall retailers have cut emissions by 19% since 2005. By 2020 ABRC signatories have committed to reducing absolute carbon emissions by 28% compared to 2005 levels, Business Green reported.

Meanwhile, retailers have cut store emissions by 35% since 2005 (relative to growth) - putting them more than halfway to their 50% target for 2020.

“The numbers in this report are really encouraging and it shows that our members have significantly reduced their direct impact on the environment over the past decade,” said Alice Ellison, environmental policy advisor for the BRC.

“In particular, energy efficiency and clean tech improvements have helped deliver “phenomenal” reductions in carbon emissions seen last year,” said Andy Bolitho, energy property and transport advisor at BRC.

“I think the progress on energy is really encouraging, particularly when you look at it from a growth perspective. There’s been quite considerable growth in the retail industry and managing down that energy consumption in carbon has been quite a difficult task,” he told reporters.

According to Bolitho, LED lighting systems have played a big role in improving the energy efficiency of many retailers’ operations.

However, these energy efficiency improvements are in a state of flux as retailers await a government announcement on plans to streamline the energy efficiency tax landscape for businesses.

Last September the Treasury unveiled plans to drastically transform the carbon reporting and taxation regime for UK businesses, detailing how it intends to end the overlapping requirements various schemes currently impose on the private sector.

Bolitho says retailers are waiting “with baited breath” for a budget announcement on March 16 that could shed some light on the government’s plans.

Broadly, a simplification of energy taxation will help encourage smaller retailers to invest in energy efficiency reforms, according to Bolitho. However, he stressed the government needs to deliver some clarity on its policies as soon as possible to help retailers plan their investment strategies and forecast their financial responsibilities looking forward to 2020.