Leading UK retailers from Dixons Carphone, New Look, Marks & Spencer’s, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons to N Brown Group, Wickes and Wilko are backing a new British Retail Consortium-led plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The BRC’s Climate Action Roadmap, supported by 63 retailers, aims to see stores and warehouses powered by net zero electricity by 2030.
The organisation says that by 2040 the British public will be able to expect to buy or rent products knowing they have minimal impact on the climate. Its roadmap sets out five key areas of action, including reducing carbon emissions from shops and distribution centres, moving to net zero logistics operations, increasing sustainability sourced products and helping customers and staff to live low carbon lifestyles.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Climate change is a threat that none of us can afford to ignore. The BRC Climate Action Roadmap is a clear and decisive statement that the retail industry is ready to take on this challenge - to be part of the solution. By 2040, we want every UK customer to be able to be able to make purchases – in store and online – safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to global heating.
“Never before has an entire industry been so ambitious in tackling climate change. Retail is the critical gateway between vast international supply chains and every one of us as citizens. We have a fantastic opportunity to make a real global difference if we can all work collectively.”
Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, said: “Climate change impacts us all and as a business, we want to make sure our actions today protect our planet for tomorrow. We’ve been taking action on climate change for more than 13 years, from becoming the first major retailer to be carbon neutral in 2012 to setting clear targets that have helped us to reduce our emissions by 70%. But we know there is much more to be done and the BRC Climate Roadmap will help us to tackle the most complex challenges we face together as an industry.”
David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said: "The threat of climate change means we’ve all got to play our full part in reducing C02 emissions. We’re committed to reach Net Zero by 2040 which will be a big challenge and we look forward to working together with the industry to reach this goal.”
Nigel Oddy, chief executive of New Look, said: “We are committed to playing our part in tackling climate change and building a better world for everyone. As we continue our journey to becoming more environmentally responsible, supporting the BRC’s roadmap will help drive collective and impactful change towards a sustainable future.”
Melanie Smith, chief executive of Ocado Retail, said: “At Ocado Retail, we’re extremely passionate about reducing our impact and progressing with our plans to meet net zero. We’re proud to support the outcome of the BRC roadmap by committing to work with other retailers, our suppliers, the Government and stakeholders to help the retail industry meet these targets. We’re also committing to support our customers on the journey to net zero.”
Alex Baldock, chief executive of Dixons Carphone, said: "Dixons Carphone is committed to race to net zero carbon. Our colleagues and customers expect us
to lead the way here, and we will. We’ll also work with fellow retailers, our suppliers and
Government to help our industry get there, to a greener future for all."
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Through the BRC Climate Action Roadmap, retailers are setting a world-leading industry ambition to reach net zero emissions. It’s a fundamental goal, requiring bold leadership from government and from commerce – I highly commend each retailer who supports this initiative.”
Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at WWF, said: “Business has a huge role to play in tackling the climate crisis – every business leader must decide urgently whether they are working towards a 1.5 degree future, and stand up and be counted. The BRC and its members are leading the way with this bold commitment. As customers, let’s show our support to the businesses making this commitment. And as citizens let’s call on government to work with the BRC and other corporate leaders to help deliver on it, and bring other businesses along with them.”
Earlier this year, 20 major retailers signed a declaration to develop the Climate Action Roadmap to tackle the cases of climate change. The BRC says that government help will be needed so that it can decarbonise stores by 2030, deliveries by 2035 and products by 2040.
The news came as the BRC said that retail sales continued to move online in October, as more workers were asked to stay at home during the month. More than four in 10 non-food sales took place online during the month, up from three in 10 a year earlier.
The greater share of sales came as online non-food sales grew by 39% compared to the same time last year, having grown by 3% in October 2019. That’s in line with the three-month average of 39.2%, and ahead of the 12-month average of 28.9%. Some 42.3% of sales took place online in October, up from 31.7% last October.
Online drove growth as retail sales grew by 4.9% in total year-on-year in October, and by 5.2% when measured on a like-for-like (LFL) basis that excludes temporarily closed stores but includes online sales. Last year, they had fallen by 0.3% in total and by 0.9% LFL.
In-store sales fell by 9% LFL and by 11.4% in total. This represents a recovery from the average 12-month decline of 19.6%.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “October saw another month of strong sales growth, with foods, gifts and loungewear high on people’s shopping lists. Tightening restrictions across the United Kingdom and speculation towards the end of the month of an England-wide lockdown prompted customers to stock up on home comforts and food supplies.
“The disparity between online and in-store non-food sales widened, with the highest online penetration rate since June. Non-food stores once again experienced double digital decline due to low footfall as more office workers returned to home working.
“During an incredibly challenging year for the industry, many retailers had finally thought that they were finding their footing. The new lockdown in England will now throw away this progress as we enter the crucial Christmas trading period and we estimate that £2bn of sales per week will be lost this month. It is therefore vital that retailers are able to trade from December 3 and we are asking government to urgently provide clarity about the criteria for reopening and to ensure that affected businesses are supported in the coming months.”
Don Williams, retail partner at KPMG, said October saw an impressive performance by retailers, but showed a stark gap between pandemic winners and losers - with goods for the home selling strongly but the improvement in fashion sales short-lived. “Online sales remain high and are set to grow further during Black Friday and lockdown,” he said. “Not all retailers are in a position to take advantage of this shift in customer behaviour, which has been accelerated by circumstance and for many is now both choice and habit. The important golden quarter is likely to be unrecognisable this year with some retailers losing a month’s worth of trading opportunity.
"Capacity is also likely to be a significant challenge over the coming months as there is a limit to online delivery availability and social distancing has reduced the numbers of customers that can safely shop in store at any one time. In order to survive, retailers must give serious thought to how consumers will engage in the run-up to Christmas."
Meanwhile, Barclaycard figures found shoppers spent 0.1% less in October than they had in September as they turned away from non-essential items (-1.7%) but spent 4.2% more on essential items. That included a lift in the supermarket category – where online spending rose by 94.4% to account for 13.7% of total spending in the category.
A consumer confidence survey of 2,000 people, run alongside Barclaycard’s analysis of its card processing, found that a third (33%) of respondents said they were stockpiling essentials against potential future shortages.
Spending rose by 20.6% online – but fell overall by 2.7%, while specialist food and drink stores – including butchers and greengrocers – benefited as 48% of shoppers said they wanted to support local businesses. Digital content and subscriptions (+32.3%) also saw demand rise. But household confidence, the survey found, dropped to 67%, a level last seen in May, from 70% in September.
Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “As Brits once again adjust to tighter restrictions, it’s no surprise that the digital habits adopted earlier this year are enduring. As we enter another period of lockdown in England and further restrictions across the UK, this stay-at-and home mentality is likely to persist, as is the popularity of takeaways and digital subscriptions – helped along by the colder weather and darker evenings.
“As the country prepares for a winter under potentially tighter restrictions, and we turn to online for our Christmas shopping, the resilience of bricks-and-mortar retailers will be tested as we wait to see what the rest of the year brings.”