A problem encountered when executing an all-encompassing sustainability strategy is the sheer complexity of the topic. Definitions of sustainability include numerous ecological, social and economic aspects such as CO2 emissions/protection of the climate, resource use, human rights, Fairtrade, packaging/plastics, animal husbandry, reduction and avoidance of pesticides, reduction of environmentally harmful ingredients and substances, avoidance of food waste to name just some of the aspects.
Virtually all aspects of retail contribute emissions, from the energy required for store operations and trucks, to emissions from farms and factories, to the energy used by customers to power their purchased devices. The industry can influence emission reductions of both suppliers and customers and mobilise considerable action to address the climate emergency. Equally, investors in the retail sector have rising expectations around emissions measurement and disclosures, and concrete strategies for reduction.
That said, the sustainability agenda is becoming much more important and prevalent and gaining much more traction politically, economically and in society at large. There seems to be a significant hardening of the overall position of activists and the wider population at large. Also, another radicalisation process seems to gather steam, stemming from the belief that humanity has at most ten years left to act to avoid climate change and potentially disastrous consequences.
While the green movement has been around since the 1960/70s we are witnessing another real change in its goals, tactics, reach and composition. There is a real urgency in movement around sustainability and the publisher could see a return of much more radical activism (such as Greenpeace in the 1980s). Change is not only driven by activist pressure (from charities such as the WWF to Greta) but has also entered boardrooms, hedge funds, the banking sector and mainstream politics (such as the move away from petrol and diesel cars to electrics, the phasing out of coal, the move towards renewable energies etc)
In a retail context demand for change towards more sustainability comes from shoppers (though how much they are willing to pay for environmentally friendly products is another matter) and also employees in stores/warehouses/logistics, most employees do not want to work for a polluter in general. It should be noted, that greenwashing does not cut it anymore (if it ever has). This will be a difficult problem to manage in the fast fashion sector, whose business model is built on a clear push to drive more consumption. There is a clear contradiction and inherent tension between the demands of sustainability and the goal of zero waste and chasing growth under a capitalist system.
The examples of major retailers launching environmentally friendly initiatives described in this report have become a lot more commonplace in recent years. While the publisher has chosen to write about Tesco for example, they could have also mentioned Sainsbury's efforts or Carrefour's. There is no scientifically established methodology to rank the various efforts, that has proven to be uncontentious. Though what the publisher has noticed is that the overall level of engagement has considerably intensified and that the move towards net zero policies has progressed a lot over the recent decade.
The BRC sees the majority (75%+) of emissions from retail coming from the production and use of retail products, but there isn't really a scientific consensus on that for the simple reason that calculating emission footprints is fraught with difficulties, especially when having to decide which externalities to include in the data and calculations. So the BRC approach resembles one way of tackling the problem, but there are of course others.
Perhaps another issue concerns the way innovations in the sustainability space often don't lend themselves to making money by themselves but are rather targeted at providing services to existing corporations (such as data collection on CO2 footprints). On the other hand Tesla's Elon Musk has become the world's richest man by selling more environmentally friendly, electric cars.
Indeed when looked at from a start-up perspective the biggest companies being built in the EU right now are the Giga factories needed for car battery production, which require enormous amounts of investment and government backing. In the retail space though much of the move towards becoming more environmentally friendly will not be about making money directly but perhaps be seen as table stakes and cost of doing business, perhaps mandated by governments and demanded by shoppers.
1. Executive Summary
2. Energy and Energy Efficiency
- Amazon is Investing in Renewable Energy
- Albertsons: Solar Project
- Walmart's Sustainability Efforts
- Walmart's Solar Commitment, Deal with Nexamp
- Tesco's Sustainability Roadmap
- Lidl Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy Programme
3. Emissions-Free Transport and Logistics
- Introduction, the E-Car Revolution
- Zero-Emissions Heavy-Duty Trucks: Tesla, Kenworth
- Electric Trucks - Volvo, Daimler, GM, Ford
- Fuel Cell - Daimler, GM, Toyota, Hyundai
- DHL and Kaufland Cooperation Aiming for Full Decarbonisation
4. Last Mile Innovations
- Whole Foods Online Versus in Store Shopping Footprint
- Delivery Robots - Amazon Scout
- Starship Deliveries Worldwide
- E-Cargo Bikes - DHL and Reef in Miami
- E-Cargo Bike fleets Require a Lot of Work to Implement
- E-Cargo Bikes - Costs
- E-Cargo Bikes - The Benefits I
- E-Cargo Bikes - The Benefits II
- E-Cargo Bikes - Choosing the Right Type
5. Range Composition
- Meat Causing Twice the Pollution of Plant-Based Foods
- Tesco's Range Optimisation Work
- Tesco and Beyond Meat Launch New Ready Meal Range
- Tesco's Plant-Based Food Journey to Date
- Alternative Protein Ingredients
- Impossible Foods
- Upside Foods - Lab Grown Meat
- Singapore first to Approve Cultured Meat for Sale
6. Packaging and Recycling
- Plastic-Free Groceries
- Plastic-Free Groceries - Reversing the Logistics
- Plastic-Free Groceries - What Kind of Packaging?
- Plastic-Free Groceries - Price and Costs
- Plastic-Free Groceries - Changing the System
- Pieter Pot - Delivering in Glass Containers I
- Pieter Pot - Delivering in Glass Containers II
- Sustainable Packaging Innovations
7. Resource Management
- Sustainable Fashion: Elvis & Kresse I
- Sustainable Fashion: Elvis & Kresse II
8. Innovation - Zero Waste
- Too Good To Go / BP
- Stop & Shop / Flashfood App
- Olio Food Waste App
- Imperfect Foods
9. Rentals and Resale
- Resales, Rentals and Reducing Waste
- Fashion Rental Startups I
- Fashion Rental Startups II
- Fashion Rental Startups III
- Levi's / Trove Resale Programme
- Patagonia - Early Adopter of B-Corp Status
- Patagonia Closing the Loop
- Transparency, Traceability and Ratings
- Technology Tracing the Supply Chain of Products
- Carbon Labelling - An Introduction
- Dayrize - How It Assesses Product Impact
- Compare Ethics - LCA as Saas
- Dayrize Starts in the UK
- Evocco Carbon Footprint App
- Lidl Carbon Footprinting
10. How to finance Going Green
- How Ahold Delhaize is Funding Its Sustainability Goals
- Ahold Delhaize
- Elvis & Kresse
- Imperfect Foods
- Kaufland Cooperation
- Stop & Shop
- The BRC
- Too Good To Go
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