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Companies Being Transparent, Re-Evaluating Goals After Slow Progress Toward Sustainability

In their latest reports, two major companies are being forthcoming about respective shortfalls in terms of expected progress toward their long-term sustainability goals.

In its latest annual report, released last week, British department store group the John Lewis Partnership — parent company of John Lewis department stores and the Waitrose grocery chain says it will review its sustainability goals after seeing its absolute emissions grow by almost 7 percent last year.

The retail giant, which says it combined its Annual Report and Sustainability Review information into one document to reflect its approach to business, committed in 2010 to a 15 percent reduction in absolute emissions by 2020, but this latest report revealed that emissions have instead risen by 13 percent.

The Group described the target as "exceptionally challenging," especially given its 33 percent business growth since 2010.

"We are therefore reviewing our future Carbon Plan targets in line with the Partnership's projected growth rate... we will ensure that these changes do not deter from the partnership's goal of reducing our environmental impact," read the report.

The report does point out that emissions/£m of sales — known as carbon intensity — have fallen by 15 percent since 2011 and by 0.5 percent since 2014.

A spokesperson for John Lewis told edie.net that this drop in carbon intensity could be attributed to the introduction of new technologies such as water-cooled refrigeration and LED lights in all new branches, along with buildings becoming more efficient thanks to a group-wide refurbishment program.

The John Lewis Partnership has committed to "take all reasonable steps to minimize any detrimental effect its operations may have on the environment, and to promote good environmental practice." Highlights from the report include:

  • On-site renewables — The emission figures do not take into account a 2013 renewable electricity supply deal with SmartestEnergy, which now powers 380 Waitrose and John Lewis stores, but the report describes the Partnership's more recent forays into on-site renewables as "very challenging.” The report states: "This year, our trading was 53 weeks (usually 52) so in light of this, and an 11 percent increase in electricity emission factors, we believe our reduction in carbon intensity is good progress."
  • Transport — John Lewis is falling short of its 15 percent reduction target in transport, having only cut emissions by 3 percent since 2011. The company attributes its slow progress to an increase in sales and associated deliveries, despite the use of 44 dual-fuel trucks, running on methane and diesel.
  • Waste — In 2014, Waitrose cut the sleeve packaging on some of its ready meals in half, saving 145 tonnes of packaging; the Partnership says it is on track to meet its waste-to-landfill target of 98 percent by year-end 2015/16, and it will continue to look for opportunities to increase the use of recycled materials in its buildings, and where possible, to make this a closed-loop solution.
  • Sourcing— The Partnership has announced a commitment to source 50 percent of its cotton form sustainable sources by 2025, and pledged to update its timber sourcing policy, seeking input from experts such as the Rainforest Alliance. The company said it will supply more details in 2016 about reporting on sustainability issues in the supply chain.

Meanwhile, the latest Sustainability Report from consumer health and hygiene giant RB (formerly Reckitt Benckiser), also released last week, reveals mixed success toward its goals, citing a “conflict between our social and environmental ambitions.”

Among its accomplishments for the year, the report highlights:

  • Over 141 million people reached with its health and hygiene messaging, marking 70% of its goal to reach 200 million people by 2020 — for example, Durex’s “Someone Like Me” program has reached approximately 70 million people with its sexual health messaging, while 70 million more have been reached through Dettol and Harpic’s hygiene education and sanitation programs.
  • 50 percent of products in the pipeline more sustainable than their predecessors — RB uses a bespoke online tool that guides the development of low-impact products by showing designers the environmental impacts of their decisions in real time. RB’s entire product pipeline is continually assessed by the tool. By end 2014, 50 percent of the pipeline consisted of innovations that are more sustainable than existing RB products.
  • 74 percent of factories sending zero waste to landfill, including hazardous and non-hazardous waste — since 2012, RB has gone from four to 35 factories achieving zero waste to landfill and reduced water and energy use by 25 and 13 percent, respectively (per unit of production).
  • 25 percent reduction in water use per unit of production

In 2012, RB launched its betterbusiness strategy with three main 2020 targets: reducing emissions and water impact by one-third, generating one-third of net revenue from sustainable products, and helping 200 million people improve their health and hygiene.

Despite the progress highlighted above, 2014 also saw an increase in the company’s total carbon and water impact — which includes product usage — compared with 2013.

As the report explains: "This was partly due to growth in our bar soap and body wash categories in geographies with high carbon and water impact intensities. Since these products also account for a significant percentage of our total doses, they are having a disproportionate impact on our total footprint.

"Moreover, the social benefit of improving hygiene from the use of these products highlights a conflict between our social and environmental ambitions. We will examine this further in 2015."

CEO Rakesh Kapoor said: “This report demonstrates good progress against our betterbusinees strategy, which charts a course for sustainable, responsible growth. While I am proud of the progress that we have made, we will continue to challenge ourselves to do more with less to achieve our vision of a world where people are healthier and live better.”


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