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UK Retailers Commit to Greening Their Supply Chains

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UK retailers have pledged to reduce adverse impacts on the environment and increase sustainability across the supply chain over the next six years.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) held an event last week around the “A Better Retailing Climate” initiative, a collective plan to reduce the environmental impact of the retail industry.

BRC launched a new report at the event titled, “A Better Retailing Climate: Driving Resource Efficiency” that outlines an ambitious environmental strategy for the twenty-five signatory retailers which collectively represent half of UK retailers by turnover.

Asos, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Boots, T.K. Maxx and Figleaves have all signed on to the eco-endeavor.

BRC’s Better Retailing Climate initiative was established in 2008, and committed businesses representing the majority of the UK retail market to sector-wide green goals, and the organization says progress has been positive.

So far, retailers have reduced waste sent to landfills to below 15 percent in 2013, and they intend to eventually see zero waste go to landfills in the future.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said, “The strength of commitment is plain to see when you look at how much progress has been made in the last decade: for example, only 6 per cent of waste was sent to landfill in 2013, down from 47 per cent in 2005. But retailers will continue to keep this momentum going: they recognise that it makes business sense and delivers real environmental benefits as well as value for their customers.”

They have also cut energy-related carbon emissions from store deliveries by 29 percent and increased water measurement in sites from 50 percent to an estimated 83 percent.

Targets for the coming years include reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels. The goal is another step toward meeting the UK’s overall aim of eliminating 80 percent of emissions as outlined in the country’s Climate Change Bill.

“The new set of targets and commitments demonstrates that the UK retail sector is innovative, forward thinking and a true global leader in this area,” according to BRC.

Through the initiative, BRC members are also working with their supply chains to produce more with less, and to source raw materials in a way that supports natural replenishment.

They’ve established farming groups to encourage long-term investment and improvements to farm efficiencies, working with suppliers to enhance resource efficiency and holding seminars for suppliers on the responsible sourcing of raw materials.

Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Defra, who spoke at last week’s event said, “This initiative has been very successful in showing how industry can reduce the environmental impact of the retail sector.” He said, “It also highlights how it is possible to grow businesses in a sustainable way that is not only good for the environment but for the economy as well.”

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