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Five ways we're reducing our impact on the environment when sourcing great products

Laurence Webb

Responsible Sourcing Manager

3 Jun 2016

How Tesco is working to reduce our environmental impact when sourcing our products.

As a food business, our long-term success depends on the health of the natural environment. Customers also expect products which not only have a minimal environmental impact but products which are sourced and manufactured in ways which actually help to tackle environmental challenges. That’s part of our commitment to offer great products.

By having strong relationships with our suppliers and using our combined reach and expertise, we can ensure the products we source are not just great quality and affordable but also fair to the people who make them and the environments which they reply upon. In other words, truly sustainable. Here are five of our top developments:

  1. Ensuring even more of our products contain sustainable palm oil

Palm oil is a really useful vegetable oil which is used in a number of our products, from biscuits to soap. It is largely grown in southeast Asia, where there are serious problems with illegal deforestation. Replacing palm oil is not the answer but we do need to ensure that it’s grown sustainably.

That’s why over the last few years we and our suppliers have been working hard to ensure that all of the palm oil contained in our products comes from certified sustainable sources. Since 2012 all of our palm oil comes from sources which advance the production of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) oil. This year we are delighted that 95% of this will be from either ‘mass balance’ or ‘segregated’ sustainable sources. We use approximately 30,000 tonnes of palm oil in our products each year so we’re delighted that more of this is sustainably sourced than ever before.

However, we recognise that there’s more to do to address this challenging environmental issue and we will continue to work with our suppliers and other industry partners, such as NGOs, to find effective and lasting solutions.  

  1. Expanding our offer of sustainable seafood

We’re quickly increasing how much fish we sell with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label, which helps to encourage sustainable fishing practices. This includes some of our most popular products like cod fillets, smoked kippers, haddock fishcakes and fish fingers. We’re also expanding our MSC offer to our 656 fresh fish counters and to some of our frozen fish products.

To help us maintain our commitment, we have pledged our support to protect the Arctic from unsustainable fishing through a landmark agreement concerning the previously-frozen Northern Barents Sea. We’ve also made a commitment that all tuna on our shelves – including branded products – will have to be sourced in a sustainable way, which our own-brand tuna currently is.   

  1. Joining the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative

Agriculture accounts for approximately 60% of our entire carbon footprint, 97% of our water footprint and the vast majority of our impact on biodiversity. Clean water, healthy soils and functioning biodiversity are also vital for the long-term security of our supply chains. Therefore it’s vital that we address both the impacts and risks from agricultural supply chains globally. One way that we can do this is through our membership of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, which we recently joined.

The SAI Platform is a non-profit organisation founded over ten years ago by a small group of food and drink companies to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practice in regards sustainable agriculture. It now has over 80 members, including companies with a strong environmental track record such as Unilever, Nestlé, Mars, Kellogg’s and PepsiCo. By working with like-minded companies and partners across industry we can help define, drive and implement environmental best practice in our agricultural supply chains, both through growing standards, guidance and on-the-ground collaboration.

  1. Pledging to have zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC) from agriculture, textile and leather processing by 2020.

We are working with our suppliers and others in industry to phase out the use of all hazardous chemicals from our supply chain, including agriculture, textiles and leather, by 2020. The scale and complexity of this issue means that we can’t achieve this goal on our own, which is why we’re working collaboratively with stakeholders in the industry to have a significant impact across our supply chains. For example, our clothing brand F&F is a signatory member of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) industry group, which has developed a roadmap to achieve our 2020 goal. We have also issued a list of restricted chemicals to our suppliers and begun a programme of supplier training and waste water testing at core wet processing facilities.

  1. Reducing our own carbon emissions by 3.1%

We recently published our 2015/16 carbon emissions data and we are pleased to have achieved a 3.1% reduction in our absolute carbon emissions on last year. This is a result of our continued investment in energy efficiency initiatives such as our Energy Ambassador Programme, which reduced energy use across the 56 participating Express stores in the UK by 3%. This was achieved by encouraging behaviour change with our retail colleagues, such as switching bakery ovens off between bakes. This was recognised with the 2015 Edie Sustainability Leaders Award for Employee Engagement and Behaviour Change. We have also reduced our refrigerant emissions by 26.5% compared to 2006/07 and generated over 10,000 MWh of renewable electricity from solar PV and wind.

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