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British Retail Consortium progress report: A Better Retailing Climate: Towards Sustainable Retail

The British Retail Consortium has published its annual environmental progress report.  

This report sets out the retail sector’s progress in meeting targets focusing on its direct impacts (buildings, refrigeration, transport, in-store waste and water use); its customers’ impacts (food waste, packaging waste, green products and services, plastic bags); its supply chain (soy and palm oil, working with suppliers; waste in the supply chain; developing sustainable products) and supporting government to meet its objectives. Collectively, BRC members have met or exceeded most of the targets set except for packaging in the supply chain.
An assessment by Forum for the Future (FFF) concludes:
Throughout this report is evidence of a sector making good progress on tackling its direct environmental impacts. … However, there is no room for complacency, as some of the targets are not that stretching …The report also describes some progress in tackling consumer impacts, although the exact degree of progress is hard to judge as there are only qualitative, non-specific targets for this area. Given that the environmental footprint associated with the use phase of goods is magnitudes greater than that associated with manufacture and transport, measuring and then reducing these impacts is a critical challenge for the sector.
FFF recommends:

  • UK retailers should build on the progress made in addressing direct environmental impacts by developing quantitative and ambitious targets for all aspects of sustainability, including biodiversity, supply chain and consumer use.
  • Retailers need to move from supporting their customers to be sustainable, to leading them and making sustainable living much easier than it is today.
  • The UK retail sector needs to think now about alternative, sustainable business models, and start to experiment with these new models in earnest. The rapid growth of on-line retail and the explosion of peer-to-peer business models is an indication of how quickly business practice can change.

The Forum also says “there needs to be a reframing of the boundary between pre-competitive and competitive issues in order to deliver collaboration at the scale required. Ultimately, the BRC and UK retail should aspire to deliver a new and valuable export from the UK economy – a sustainable business model for retail.”

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