Cutting carbon emissions

24 Nov 2014

Find out how both Tesco and some of our suppliers have been working on reducing our carbon emissions.


In September the world’s attention was drawn to New York for the UN’s latest Climate Summit, where more than 100 world leaders gathered to pledge action to tackle climate change. Commitments ranged from a plan by China to cut carbon intensity to targets by several European countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.

It was encouraging to see progress ahead of what will be a vital year in the fight against climate change, culminating in the 2015 Paris Summit. But as often can be the case with high-level negotiations, the hard work being done by individuals, companies and other organisations to make these commitments a reality can get overlooked.

Working on a common goal

That’s why we invited some of our suppliers, via our online supplier community - The Knowledge Hub - to share how they have been working on a common goal between our companies: to cut carbon emissions.

For example, food manufacturer Samworth Brothers has installed a new more efficient boiler, optimised boiler usage by sharing steam capacity between sites and trained delivery drivers on fuel efficient driving, saving 300, 800 and 695 tonnes of carbon each year respectively. It is also working with suppliers to reduce packaging waste and achieved zero waste to landfill across its nine bakeries in 2010, saving 60 tonnes of carbon each year.

Five Star Fish is not only planning to install over 1,000 solar PV panels on its factory roof – estimated to deliver an annual carbon saving of 202.5 tonnes, but it is carrying out a complete overhaul of its on-site lighting, estimated to save a further 165.7 tonnes of carbon.

Icelandic Seachill’s various energy-saving initiatives, such as voltage optimisation, LED lighting and variable speed drives on air compressors, are reducing its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 331 tonnes. A further 200 tonnes are expected to be saved with other projects including solar PV.

The Brita Group has invested in software to capture data from all of its global sites and in the UK it is concentrating on reducing the consumption of resources required to make its water filter cartridges. In the past five years this has included reducing water use by 50% and installing LED lighting. They are also looking at investing in solar PV in the UK.

ABP Food Group has implemented a number of energy saving initiatives over the last 12 months, including heat recovery from its refrigeration system in Ireland and extensive water saving measures. In addition to optimisation units and smart technology throughout all its sites, as well as a redesign to its site in Ellesmere, these changes have helped ABP Beef to reduce its carbon emissions by almost 40,000 tonnes from 2008-2013.

Cutting our own emissions

At Tesco, meanwhile, we have made two medium-term targets to cut our carbon footprint, one of which is to halve the carbon emissions per square foot of our stores and distribution centres across all our operating markets by 2020 against a 2006/07 baseline.

To achieve this, our Energy and Engineering teams are working collaboratively with our contractors to deliver extensive energy saving projects across our entire estate. The focus of this year has been to replace inefficient fluorescent sales floor lighting with LEDs.

While LEDs are a proven technology that can deliver sustainable energy savings and reduce maintenance expenditure, the challenge is to find an LED solution which conforms to our lighting design standards. So far we have converted 1,200 of our smaller convenience stores to LED lighting, which will save us 17 GWh of electricity and reduce our carbon footprint by 7,640 tonnes each year.

In addition we are carrying out a series of trials on other technologies such as freezer lids, heat exchange and dynamic voltage optimisation, as well as continuing our colleague engagement initiatives such as the Tesco Energy Grand Prix.

We are also working hard to reduce emissions in our distribution network, for example with our 'F Plan', which is about fuller cages, fuller containers, fewer miles and fuel economy.

An example of the F Plan in action is a function in our distribution network called Tesco Primary, whereby we collaborate with suppliers to transport their goods from farm or factory to our distribution centres, instead of suppliers doing this themselves. Our scale means that we can offer enhanced efficiency by consolidating loads from smaller suppliers at consolidation centres and using our return journeys from stores to pick up goods. This reduces carbon emissions and is usually cheaper for suppliers.

One example is how we are working with Alpro to transport some of their products from Belgium to the UK. The sharing and optimisation of distribution facilities has led to an annual reduction in carbon emissions of 100 tonnes.

Maintaining momentum

Following the upcoming Climate Summit in Lima in December 2014, the focus of global climate negotiations will move to Paris 2015, where many are looking for a meaningful legal agreement.

Maintaining momentum until then will take collective action from a wide range of groups and organisations, so it is encouraging to hear about some of the ambitious work being undertaken by our suppliers. Thank you to everyone who contributed their carbon-reduction stories and keep up the good work.

You can also take part in DECC’s Tweetathon on 25 November by using #backclimateaction. More details here.