By 2040, every UK customer will be able to make purchases – in store and online – knowing that they are not contributing to climate change: that’s the plan

Week of 9 November 2020

By 2040, every UK customer will be able to make purchases – in store and online – knowing that they are not contributing to climate change: that’s the plan

63 UK retailers under the aegis of trade association the British Retail Consortium (BRC) are committing to an ambitious goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, across their own operations and their supply chains. The BRC’s roadmap has five pathways to decarbonisation: (1) Getting good data, (2) Using renewable energy, (3) Low-carbon logistics, (4) Sustainable sourcing, and (5) Promoting consumer behaviour change.

The commitment

Retail trade association British Retail Consortium (BRC)—which counts more than 90 member companies spanning around 70% of the UK retail industry by turnover—published its Climate Action Roadmap outlining steps to reach a UK industry-wide climate commitment of Net Zero GHG emissions by 2040, across retailers’ own operations and the supply chain. Sub-goals include:

    • By 2030: Net zero Scope 2 emissions (retailers’ electricity use in UK stores and warehouses)
    • By 2035: Net zero Scope 1 emissions (retailers’ fuel, gas and refrigerant use in the UK)
    • By 2040: Net zero Scope 3 emissions (GHG emissions in the supply chain)

The commitment is backed by 63 retailers, who pledge to work with the UK Government to realise their ambition.

The Climate Action Roadmap includes 5 pathways to decarbonisation for retailers to act on:

Source: BRC, Climate Action Roadmap Executive Summary (November 2020)

Source: BRC, Climate Action Roadmap Executive Summary (November 2020)

Some additional context

    • The UK retail sector accounts for around 215 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. At least 75% of emissions are generated in the production and use of retail products (addressed by Pathways 4 and 5); 5-15% come from transportation and logistics (addressed by Pathway 3); and 5-10% come from energy use (addressed by Pathway 2).
    • Consumers are on board with reducing emissions. BRC reports that 79% of consumers globally are changing their purchasing habits and preferences based on environmental and social considerations. 88% of consumers globally are looking to brands to help them reduce their own environmental and social footprint.
    • The retail sector’s commitment is bolstered by new requirements from the UK government. This week, the Financial Times reported that Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced to Parliament a series of green initiatives for the financial sector in the post-Brexit era. Most notable among the commitments is a plan for Britain to require large companies (both publicly listed and private) to disclose climate-related financial risks by 2025. This includes banks, insurance companies and pension schemes. “Premium listed companies” (generally defined by the London Stock Exchange as those large corporations that meet the UK’s highest standards of regulation and corporate governance) will be required to start disclosing against the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure’s (TCFD) framework even sooner, starting January 1, 2021. The UK Government states that Britain plans to become the first country in the world to make TCFD-aligned disclosures “fully mandatory across the economy by 2025, going beyond the ‘comply or explain’ approach.” This ambition goes beyond what other countries have so far committed to (recall that earlier this year the Government of New Zealand announced plans to require all financial institutions with assets over NZ$1 billion to report in line with the TCFD framework starting as early as 2023—which is itself an ambitious commitment).

Read the executive summary of the Roadmap here: BRC, Climate Action Roadmap Executive Summary (November 2020). The full roadmap is online here:

“Climate change is a threat that none of us can afford to ignore. The BRC Climate Action Roadmap is a clear and decisive statement that the retail industry is ready to take on this challenge – to be part of the solution. By 2040, we want every UK customer to be able to be able to make purchases – in store and online – safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to global heating. Never before has an entire industry been so ambitious in tackling climate change. Retail is the critical gateway between vast international supply chains and every one of us as citizens. We have a fantastic opportunity to make a real global difference if we can all work collectively.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium, Retail to Hit Net Zero by 2040 (10 November 2020)