As part of our Sustainability 2023 report, ESM caught up with industry leaders across a host of leading retail and consumer goods firms to discuss their ESG achievements to date, efforts made to tackle Scope 3 emissions, and what the current cost-of-living crisis means for sustainability – both for themselves and their consumer base.
Anna Turrell, Group Head Of Environment, Tesco
We know customers are primarily focused on value right now, but we want to make shopping at Tesco as sustainable as possible for our customers by driving improvements at every point in our food system – in our own operations, in our supply chain, and in our customers’ homes.
A few examples include our ‘Better Baskets’ campaign, to help customers make better choices – including foods high in fibre, plant-based options, and low- and no-alcohol drinks – and continuing to deliver our 4Rs packaging strategy, to tackle the impact of packaging waste.
For example, we are working with major toothpaste brands on a trial to remove unneeded packaging, we have removed multipack wrapping on own-brand drinks, and we are the first major UK retailer to ban plastic wet wipes.
A New Purpose
We’ve built sustainability into our purpose, strategy, and business plans. We launched our new purpose in 2021 – serving our customers, communities and planet a little better every day – to ensure the whole business was working towards the same goal, and to put sustainability at the very heart of our business and right into our core purpose.
Last year, we expanded our net-zero climate commitment to decarbonise our whole value chain, aligned to 1.5 degrees, by 2050. This ‘North Star’ commitment has helped to further strengthen business alignment in delivering on our sustainability goals, as it serves as an umbrella under which many of our existing targets sit.
We have further embedded our sustainability targets across our business in everything from our financial strategy, such as the launch of sustainability-linked bonds, to our transport operations, including the launch of our first electric HGV, which is now delivering to more than 400 stores in Greater London.
Scope 3 Challenge
On Scope 3, in 2021, we expanded our group net-zero target to include the full value chain – Scopes 1, 2 and 3 – aligned to a 1.5C trajectory by 2050, covering all indirect Scope 3 emissions. We are now in the process of validating these targets with the SBTi [Science Based Targets initiative].
Going forward, reductions will be more challenging, as we tackle hard-to-decarbonise areas like heating, transport and refrigeration across our own operations, where the solutions are not readily available and at the scale required.
The majority of our total emissions occur in our supply chain. Tackling these areas will require collaboration across the food industry, including working with suppliers, government and NGOs to implement the transformational changes needed to reach net zero.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face as a society, and one of the most critical challenges facing business. If we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and mitigate the damage already done, then urgent, collective action is required to meet the UK’s climate goals and shift our economies onto a zero-carbon pathway.
As primarily a grocery retailer, we recognise that food is one of the biggest areas for action in tackling climate change and restoring nature. We can only achieve this by collaborating with our suppliers, experts, civil society, and wider industry, and, of course, with governments. We have some incredibly talented people at Tesco, but we cannot do this on our own.
This article first appeared in ESM’s November/December 2022 edition.