Southern Co-op widens scope of its emissions reduction targets

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) says the society’s plans are in line with what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C

Southern Co-op’s latest climate plans have been praised as ‘ambitious’ by a collaboration of world leading environmental organisations, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

SBTi says both of the new targets from the independent retail society target support what is required globally to limit global warming to 1.5°C. SBTi is a collaboration between CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature).

It said: “We commend Southern Co-op’s ambitious 1.5°C – aligned target, currently the most ambitious designation available through the SBTi process.”

Southern Co-op has committed:

• to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 from a 2019 base year – this relates to emissions that fall under its operational control such as electricity, gas, fuel and emissions associated with refrigeration
• and to reduce absolute scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from managed trading businesses 17% over the same target period – this relates to emissions associated with its wider value chain and activity pre and post sale e.g. products, suppliers and customers

CEO Mark Smith, who chairs Southern Co-op’s Climate Action Group, said: “The SBTi independently assesses companies’ targets, so it is a significant step forward having our latest emissions reduction goals approved by the initiative.

“We all need to be bolder and accelerate action given the climate emergency. These targets provide a vital step for Southern Co-op on a longer-term pathway to net zero carbon. Our targets are supported by a multi-million pound programme with an initial £5.8m investment with a focus on further energy reduction and improving refrigeration.

“Our aim is to get our emissions down as low as we possibly can. Alongside exploring longer term reduction opportunities, we will also look at other ways to compensate for our emissions and impacts.”

Southern has previously reduced its business carbon footprint by 27% between 2012 and 2019. Working with international climate consultancy EcoAct, it has undertaken to develop a supporting climate action pathway which identifies the areas where investment and activity are needed to achieve its climate ambition.

Cameron Wilson, associate director for EcoAct, said: “In the latest figures from the Science Based Targets initiative, there are only 1,558 companies who are setting emission reduction targets through this programme. Of these, only 782 have been approved and only 623 have committed to the 1.5°C scenario. This puts Southern Co-op at the forefront of the action being taken globally.

“According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this 1.5°C target is imperative to avert the greatest challenges faced by climate change. The real challenge will be to hit these targets but our independent study of FTSE 100 companies has shown that companies are more likely to be on track to meet carbon reduction targets if they set science-based targets.”

Initiatives to reduce Southern Co-op’s carbon footprint have already included sourcing the majority of its electricity from renewable sources, installing LED lighting across its estate, movement sensors to control lighting in stockrooms and employee areas, airflow technology or doors for refrigeration, and solar photovoltaic panels at eight locations.

The co-operative is also increasing its range of electric vehicles including a new fully electric Tesla hearse and introducing on-site electric charging at a number of locations.

Gemma Lacey, Southern’s director of sustainability & communications, said: “We are a regional business but have a responsibility and role in supporting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 13 on Climate Action.

“As a co-operative we know there is power in collaboration so we will be looking to our colleagues, members, community partners and others to play their part to our mutual benefit.

“The next ten years are critical so we will be regularly reviewing our progress to make sure we keep on track to achieve our targets and longer term aspiration of net zero carbon and if we can we will endeavour to reach these goals sooner.”