‘Most Radical Sustainability Plan’ Launched by Supermarket Group

by | Feb 18, 2011

The “toughest operational carbon reduction targets of any major business” are among 47 goals in an ethical operating plan released today by the Co-Operative Group, the owner of the U.K.’s fifth-largest supermarket chain.

The Co-Op has pledged to reduce carbon emissions 35 percent by 2017, from a 2006 baselne. The company has already reduced carbon emissions 20 percent since 2006.

It aims to generate the equivalent of 25 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2017, and to go carbon neutral by 2012. In contrast, number one UK retailer Tesco says it will go zero carbon by 2050.

The Co-Op says it will reduce water consumption across its operations by 10 percent by 2013.

The company, which also operates pharmacies, banks, insurance, investments and funeral services, says it will ensure that the “vast majority” of its operational waste is diverted from landfills by 2013. Currently the group re-uses or recycles 60 percent of its waste.

And the Co-Op has promised to move to sustainable sourcing for palm oil by 2011 and for soya by 2015.

The company called this “the most radical sustainability programme in UK corporate history”.

Leading U.K. environmentalist Jonathon Porritt said: “By launching this Ethical Plan, the Co-operative is taking corporate sustainability into a new era. Other businesses will now be seeking to benchmark themselves against this plan.”

Other goals and programs in the plan:

  • Cut use of plastic shopping bags a further 15 percent from a 2006 baseline by 2013, on top of 60 percent already achieved
  • A ban on the pesticides endosulfan and paraquat
  • Achieving an “Outstanding” rating under the BREEAM green building certification for its new Manchester head office, to be completed in 2012
  • An extension of its Plan Bee program addressing the decline of U.K. honeybees, to cover other “at risk” pollinators including butterflies, moths and hoverflies. The program funds scientific research, prohibits the use of certain pesticides on the Co-Op’s own-brand produce, and invites beekeepers to establish hives on the land the Co-Op farms.
  • A 10 percent packaging weight reduction by 2012, on top of 15 percent already achieved. The Co-Op is among many major UK retailers, including Asda, Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, to agree to a 10 percent cut through the WRAP program.

The Co-Op’s environmental achievements to date include ensuring that 99 percent of the wood and paper products it sells are from recycled sources or are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

In 2009 it stopped selling all fish from the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) list of Fish to Avoid, and ranked first out of eight retailers in the MCS’s supermarket survey.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

Share This