The Co-op Group is the first British retailer to sign the UN’s Our Only Future campaign at the Climate Action Summit in New York.
The breakthrough initiative calls on global businesses to make critical contributions to help cap global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
The move follows the Group’s announcement earlier this year that it has committed to further reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions of 50% by 2025, having already halved emissions in the 10 years from 2006 and in the last year alone, by an impressive 20%.
Changes planned by the Group include the use of natural refrigerants, and minimising the environmental impact of its products through responsible sourcing, such as its commitments to sustainable soy. All its stores, offices and funeral homes already use 100% renewable electricity.
It says its Only Future targets – which are aligned to a net-zero future – will be independently verified and assessed by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). These targets have been set to the level scientists say is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Michael Fletcher, chief commercial officer for retail at the Group, said: “Today is an important day in the global fight to combat climate catastrophe and we commend the UN in initiating such a large-scale call-to-action. It’s pleasing to see our Co-op take its place alongside other prominent businesses who share our desire to take immediate and decisive action.
“Accelerating efforts, by working collaboratively with independently agreed, accountable science-based targets in place, is the only way to proceed. As a co-operative retail business it’s imperative that we lead the way in doing what’s right – and that is to ensure we have a healthy, sustainable natural environment to pass on to future generations.”
UN leaders say that in order to build a prosperous net-zero carbon economy by 2050, a transformation of unprecedented pace and scale is required, with decisive business leadership and investment in climate solutions supported by ambitious government policies.
In an open letter to worldwide business leaders in June, one of Our Only Future’s main advocates, UN Special Envoy for the 2019, ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, said: “We need concrete, realistic plans by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.
“Climate change requires an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society and business leadership demonstrated by setting science-based targets at 1.5°C will send strong market signals as we look to identify the scalable and replicable solutions needed to secure a world where no one is left behind.”
Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director of the UN Global Compact, one of the SBTi partners, said: “We have less than 11 years to fundamentally change our economies or we will face catastrophic consequences. For the first time, we are seeing business and climate leaders coalesce around a common call-to-action, sending a powerful signal that science-based target setting presents a significant opportunity for businesses to step up when it comes to tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP, one of the SBTi partners, said: “The science is clear: in order to limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change, we must ensure warming does not exceed 1.5°C. The ambition is high but it’s achievable — and science-based targets give companies a roadmap for getting there. Corporations worldwide have an unprecedented opportunity to be at the very forefront of the transition to a net-zero economy — and there is no time to lose.”
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