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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Sainsbury’s Ambitious Emission Targets

Sainsbury’s has revealed its ambitious new targets for decreasing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These have been verified by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the global body that sets requirements for and approves emission reduction targets.

Back in 2020, Sainsbury’s was one of the first UK retailers to set SBTi validated targets. The retailer had previously committed to reducing its absolute scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2030 but has now pledged a 68% reduction within the same time frame.

Sainsbury’s scope 3 emission reduction target of 30% by 2030 has now been turned into two separate commitments. It’s operational target, which includes areas such as transport, energy use and manufacturing sites, has been increased to 50.4%, demonstrating the retailer’s commitment to tackling GHG emissions generated across its value chain. Then for the first time, following new requirements outlined by the SBTi, Sainsbury’s now has validated targets which focus on scope 3 GHG emissions that come from forests, land and agriculture (FLAG). The retailer has pledged to reduce its FLAG emissions by 36.4% by 2030.

Sainsbury’s bold new targets are part of its work towards becoming net zero in its own operations by 2035, and in its value chain by 2050, in line with its commitment to the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming by 1.5°C.

Sainsbury’s, along with other signatories of the WWF Retailer Commitment for Nature, has asked its suppliers that are responsible for a high proportion of its scope 3 emissions to get approved science-based targets by the end of 2025.

The retailer has also continued to work collaboratively with WRAP and other signatories to identify the biggest opportunities for collective action on emission reduction.

Ruth Cranston, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Sainsbury’s, said: “Getting our updated targets validated by the SBTi is an important step forward. The effects of climate change are already very real so it’s vital that we act now to reduce emissions and protect and restore nature to help us build a resilient future for all. Our ambition to achieve net zero by 2050 will require transformation across our whole business, supply chains, as well as how we help our customers to make more informed choices. We can't do this alone, so collaboration as an industry will be critical to drive the required change."

Catherine David, Director of Behaviour Change and Business Programmes, WRAP said: “We welcome this move by Sainsbury’s, to collaborate on action towards net zero and set clear and validated targets."

"We know that to achieve the scale and speed of GHG reductions needed, working to change how we produce and consume food is essential. We are delighted that, as signatories to Courtauld 2030 – a commitment based on collaborating to achieve key environmental targets around sustainable food production - Sainsbury’s are leading by example.”

Sainsbury’s has taken big steps in recent years to combat its GHG emissions in its own operations and is also making progress across its value chain. Last month, Sainsbury's was the only UK supermarket to be awarded an A rating for its environmental commitments on climate change by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for the tenth consecutive year. Sainsbury's was also recognised by CDP as a 2023 Supplier Engagement Leader for work engaging with suppliers to tackle climate change.

A few ways the retailer has reduced its scope 1 and 2 emissions include:

  • Removing Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and natural gas across its stores through the introduction of more efficient refrigeration systems and use of excess heat from the refrigeration systems to heat the stores

  • Introducing 100% LED lighting across its entire estate, reducing lighting energy consumption by an average of 70%

  • Using 100% renewable electricity across its estate and increasing the amount of on-site generation at its stores

  • Launching its most energy-efficient supermarket in Hook, Hampshire, which uses half the energy of a similar-sized Sainsbury’s store and 25% less electricity

Sainsbury’s has also been taking steps to reduce its scope 3 emissions, including:

  • Introducing a new Taste the Difference Aberdeen Angus range in selected stores which offers a 25% lower carbon footprint compared to industry standard, making it the largest low carbon beef range ever produced in the UK

  • Requesting suppliers to disclose their site level emissions and reduction plans through Manufacture 2030 and HIGG (sustainability and analytics platforms) to help identify hotspots and opportunities for decarbonisation in its supply chain

  • Launching Smart Charge, a dedicated EV charging business, which will introduce over 750 bays in more than 100 Sainsbury’s locations by the end of 2024, making it one of the UK’s top five providers of ultra-rapid EV charging, helping to reduce carbon emissions by supporting the uptake of electric vehicles


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