How green is your supermarket?

Low Carbon West Oxford recently held an open meeting called ‘How Green is your Supermarket’ to find out what our local supermarkets are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and help residents make greener food choices.

All 6 local supermarkets were invited: the Coop, Tesco Express, Aldi’s, Waitrose, Sainsburys and M & S. Waitrose and Sainsbury’s actually attended and The Co-operative sent apologies and a copy of their Social Responsibility Report 2015 v9.

Emissions and packaging reduced at Sainsbury’s

A senior energy manager from Sainsbury’s gave an overview of the supermarket’s aims and achievements nationwide.  He explained that it made commercial sense to reduce energy use.  They know the amount of energy they’re using every half hour and have saved enough energy to run 143 stores.  Sainsbury’s has reduced its overall carbon emissions by 16.9% between 2011-2014 despite a growth in shop area and sales. They’ve done this by using solar PV and designing their buildings to be energy efficient, for example by using the cold air from fridges to also cool buildings.  They achieved zero waste to landfill in 2011/12 (with one store completely powered by food waste) and reduced their own brand packaging by 14.4% between 2011 and 2014.  More detail can be found in Sainsbury’s Sustainability Plan.

Waitrose building rated “outstanding”

A manager from Waitrose Botley Road told us that this store has received a BREEAM(1) assessment of “outstanding” for the building, including all LED lighting, 100% green electricity and solar PVs on the roof.  The majority of staff (referred to as “partners”) at the local Waitrose use public transport to get to work and there is no parking on site for them.  Waitrose introduced the bag for life nationwide in 1997 and donates the profits to a countryside charity.  By the end of March 2016 Waitrose  aimed to have halved packaging compared to volumes in 2005 and increased the amount that can be recycled. They offset home deliveries by planting trees with the Woodland Trust.  Since 2013 they have sent no food waste to landfill.  Locally, surplus food is collected from the store every day by the Oxford Food Bank.   More information is available from the Waitrose website.

Suggestions from residents

There was a lively discussion with local residents. Some of their suggestions included:

  • Sourcing – source goods not just from the UK but locally; put a symbol on air freighted goods (M & S do this); put carbon labels on goods; and do more to influence their suppliers
  • Green food choices – promote veggie ‘dine in for two’ deals and do price promotions on veggie food.
  • Packaging –there is still far too much packaging. Customers should be allowed to bring refills and leave packaging at the supermarket
  • Fair tax – Get a ‘fair tax label’ (The Coop has one). Big companies gain unfair competitive advantage if they avoid tax which can put local shops out of business.
  • Local leadership –join Low Carbon Oxford and share learning with other local organizations.
  • Legislation – support green legislation to legally oblige all supermarkets to reduce food waste.

(1)  Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology used since 1990 to assess, rate and certify the sustainability of buildings

Supermarket basket poster final