Major UK supermarkets pledge to focus efforts on supply chain emissions

Tue 8 Nov 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Green trade

The importance of tracking supply chain emissions has again come to the fore after a new report found that the UK’s five major supermarkets are going backwards on this.

The Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have reaffirmed their 2030 environmental pledges and have vowed to refocus their efforts on cutting supply chain emissions in an annual progress report they collaborated on with WWF, which has been reported on by environmental news site

ESG requirements

Under Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements, firms are required to monitor and report direct emissions they cause (or ‘Scope 1’ emissions) as well as indirect emissions caused by energy they have purchased (‘Scope 2’).

‘Scope 3’ emissions, however, are often the most difficult to monitor. These are indirect emissions from the company value chain.  

Scope 3 failures

While the supermarkets have made strong progress in packaging recyclability, food waste avoidance, sustainable sourcing and reducing Scope 2 emissions, the WWF progress report has found that Scope 3 emissions have increased year-on-year.

These emissions represent 97% of the retail sector’s overall emissions, it says.

Supply chain difficulties

Carmen Amieva, a customs specialist team lead at the IOE&IT, recently told the IOE&IT Daily Update that Scope 3 emissions are a “huge area for many companies to manage” because they includes are lot of non-direct emissions.

“Employee vehicle travel, factory and office emissions are often easier to track but count for less than 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions total,” she says. “The rest is generated from within the supply chain.”

Restated commitment

A joint statement from the five retail giants, reported in the Comet, says:

“WWF’s findings leave no doubt of the scale of the task we collectively agreed to undertake when it comes to improving our food supply chains and enabling a sustainable shopping experience for our customers.

“We restate our commitment to work with WWF, our customers, suppliers, and the UK Government to halve the environmental impact of UK shopping baskets by 2030.”

The firms have also agreed to work with the charity, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap), to deliver a renewed climate programme to halve the sector’s emissions by 2030.

Digitalisation’s role

One of the key issues faced by supermarkets addressing their Scope 3 emissions is inefficiency at borders and in ports.

IOE&IT director general Marco Forgione recently told Tech Monitor about the case of a large supermarket chain moving a container carrying frozen pizzas:

“They had over 140 different documents that were required to accompany the trader. It took two customs officials eight hours each to clear and certify everything on the trailer.”

Jens Munch Lind-Nielsen, also speaking to the IOE&IT Daily Update, said that research from DFDS recently found that for every hour spent ‘sitting idle’ by one of its trucks in a port, a tonne of heavy fuel is used.

Clydebank Declaration

With the Clydebank Declaration agreed by nations at last year’s COP26, policymakers agreed to address emissions in international shipping by establishing ‘green corridors’ - routes between two or more maritime ports which have zero-emissions.

Forgione yesterday called on policymakers and leaders at this year’s COP27 in Egypt to prioritise the digitalisation of trade documentation and border processes as a way of making green corridors a reality and helping firms to reduce their supply chain emissions.

New UK package

At COP27 yesterday, prime minister Rishi Sunak launched a new international climate package, which included a new commitment to triple funding for climate adaptation from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn by 2025.

A government statement said that the UK “continues to deliver on our key funding commitments, spending £11.6bn on international climate finance”.