Sainsbury's Commits £1 Billion to Sustainability Initiatives

Sainsbury's Commits £1 Billion to Sustainability Initiatives

Geothermal energy heating the store, less packaging around the products, and a proliferation of greener produce looks set to become the norm for one of the U.K.'s largest supermarket chains, after Sainsbury's last night became the latest retailer to unveil a demanding new sustainability strategy.

The supermarket giant announced a £1 billion (US$1.36 billion sustainability program designed to meet a raft of new environmental targets, including a commitment to reduce operational carbon emissions by 30 percent against 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

Goals on cutting packaging, increasing sales of fairly traded products to £1 billion, and ensuring all fish sold is certified as sustainable were also included in the supermarket's newly launched 20 by 20 plan, which lists 20 corporate targets to be achieved by 2020.

"If we are to meet the sustainability challenges that lie ahead, it is important that companies such as Sainsbury's invest in the future right now," said chief executive Justin King in a statement. "We do not see this plan as a luxury; it is rather, an essential investment that will ensure we can continue to provide customers with quality food at fair prices, sustainably."

King said the plan, which is organized under the headings "operational excellence," "sustainable products" and "communities and colleagues," eclipsed even Marks & Spencer's renowned Plan A sustainability program, hailing 20 by 20 as "the most ambitious sustainability targets in our industry."

Neil Sachdev, property director at Sainsbury's, told BusinessGreen the company had been working on the plans for "six or seven years" without putting all the initiatives together under a formal heading.

As well as reducing operational carbon emissions by 30 percent on an absolute level and 65 percent relative to revenues, Sainsbury's plans to cut emissions across its own brand products by 50 percent.

He said some of the savings will be achieved by fitting energy-saving technologies at new and existing stores, but he added that the company also foresees a large role for geothermal energy.

Sainsbury's has pioneered geothermal energy at its Crayford store, while its Hythe outlet uses a biofuel generator when the local grid is at peak demand.

"Geothermal's going to be a big one," he said. "I see circa 10 stores using it and more going forward, [while] solar panels are now also becoming standard. We're trying to think about energy security ... and taking lessons from the Hythe and Crayford stores and learning to retrofit the technology."

Packaging will be cut in half compared to 2005 levels under the new plan, and all waste will be put "to positive use." The Sachdev said the company already sends zero food waste to landfill and will now look at producing energy from waste as well as increasing recycling and reuse rates.

The retailer is also planning to revamp its supply chain, ensuring its suppliers are "leaders in meeting or exceeding our social and environmental standards."

As well as selling solely certified sustainable fish, it plans to ensure its water supply does not harm water stressed areas and double the amount of British food it sells in an effort to cut supply chain emissions.

In addition, the company said raw materials and commodities will be sourced in line with independent sustainability standards, while its own brand products will not contribute to global deforestation.

Sainsbury's plan was praised by Prime Minister David Cameron, who lauded the programme as an great example of his Big Society-inspired Every Business Commits partnership.

Cameron said Sainsbury's was "helping to create jobs and growth while also tackling our shared social and environmental challenges, investing in their workforce and in our communities, and building a bigger, stronger society."

This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen.

Photo CC-licensed by osde8info.