Goodbye to a sustainable 2012

When I look back on the achievements my team and all of my colleagues working in sustainability across the business have made this year I feel immensely proud. Here’s just a small flavour below…

On products and supply chain, 2012 was the year that we really started to embed sustainability across our suppliers thanks to the strategic vision and support of Barry Williams. We started the year with a pilot and ended with nearly 300 suppliers, amounting for over £12bn of annual sales, on our Sustain & Save Exchange. Using the lens of sustainability to review how products are made is already making these suppliers not only lighter on the environment but also more efficient and closer strategic partners to Asda. We’ve given a Golden Rule – suppliers keep all savings they make from using the Exchange which we also fully fund for them!

Thanks to the guidance of Paul Kelly, in our own operations our latest carbon footprint shows a further 4.3% reduction in carbon emissions since the previous year which totals a whopping 17.7% absolute reduction since 2007. This year’s reductions were driven by colleagues in energy, transport, refrigeration and waste. As these are absolute numbers that means we achieved them in spite of nearly doubling the number of stores we operate – an amazing achievement unrivalled in UK retail.

My team, along with Chris Brown and Rick Bourne, also started to look at securing future supplies in the face of a changing global weather system and more scarcity of resources through a Climate Change Adaptation project in our Produce area. This showed us that we really need to focus more here as changes to rain patterns, temperatures and storm severity is having an impact already – not something we expected to see so soon.

On the Walmart global palm oil project that I lead, we led the first major summit in the US this year and are currently in the middle of plans to continue to use our scale to convene like-minded companies to help us all achieve our goals and do the right thing. Palm oil is often maligned but it’s a great product provided it’s grown in a sustainable way. We made a huge amount of progress this year.

Did you know that, thanks to the leadership of Andy Clarke, Asda has the highest number of electric car charging points than anyone else in the UK and possibly across all Europe? You may wonder why we decided to install these – well we recognise both the cheap cost and lower environmental impact of driving electric cars but also that it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. There will be low levels of sales of these cars until charging is more widespread but unless someone takes a leadership position then the provision of this infrastructure will take years. Andy decided that we will be those leaders – and we now are.

We have exciting plans for next year to build on these efforts, involving both our customers and suppliers even more as well as our own operations. We believe it’s a win-win as becoming more sustainable allows us to continue to deliver great prices not just next year but for the next ten years and beyond. I know I’ll have no trouble getting out of bed in the mornings with an agenda like that to deliver.

Posted by Julian on 24 December 2012
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