Retail Sector (Energy Efficiency)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-12084, in the name of Graeme Dey, on welcoming a more energy-efficient retail sector. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the launch of the Scottish Retail Consortium’s (SRC) report, A Better Retailing Climate: Driving Resource Efficiency; congratulates the SRC on producing a robust commitment to reducing the environmental impact of the retail industry; recognises that the report provides examples of this commitment throughout Scotland, including Arbroath, where the local farmer, Peter Stirling, has reduced waste, invested in Biomass boilers and extended the shelf life of his produce; understands that the report sets out targets to reach by 2020, which include reducing carbon emissions from retail operations by 25% and ensuring that less than 1% of retail waste goes to landfill; commends the SRC for not only meeting, but exceeding all of its targets that it set out in the 2008 report, such as limiting landfill waste to 6% and reducing supermarket refrigeration emissions by 55%, and welcomes this encouragement for all those in the retail sector to commit to lowering their environmental impact.

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I thank members who supported the motion that has allowed this debate to take place, and those who have remained here to participate in it.

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee has highlighted repeatedly in its work on tackling climate change and driving down emissions that Scotland will achieve its ambitions only with societal and individual behaviour change. Parliament setting targets and the Government introducing initiatives are all well and good, but without genuine buy-in we are up against it. To get that buy-in we need exemplars of environmentally responsible practice at community level, and across the public and private sectors. That is why I am pleased to introduce the debate and why I commend the efforts of the Scottish Retail Consortium’s membership, as highlighted in the report “A Better Retailing Climate: Driving Resource Efficiency”. Promoting good practice is an integral part of ensuring that we very quickly reach the point at which behaving in an environmentally responsible way is seen as the norm, and doing otherwise is seen as unacceptable.

Let us look at what the SRC’s membership has delivered across the UK and then consider what it plans to achieve by 2020. Targets that were signed up to in 2008 and which have been exceeded include cutting energy-related emissions from buildings by 30 per cent, cutting greenhouse gas emissions from supermarket refrigeration by 55 per cent, cutting energy-related carbon emissions from store deliveries by 29 per cent, cutting the proportion of waste sent to landfill from 47 per cent to 6 per cent and increasing water measurement in sites from 50 per cent to an estimated 83 per cent.

New targets for 2020, which use 2005 figures as their baseline, include reducing absolute carbon emissions from retail operations by 25 per cent, cutting energy-related emissions from buildings by half, reducing emissions from refrigeration gases by 80 per cent, reducing carbon emissions from store deliveries by 45 per cent, measuring 100 per cent of water usage on sites and sending less than 1 per cent of waste to landfill.

It is worth while to peer behind those headlines and to consider the specifics of what has been taking place. Let us look at Asda. Carbon emissions from existing stores, offices and depots are down by a third since 2005. It aims to have 30 per cent of its energy sourced from renewables by the end of 2015 and it is on target to reduce energy consumption in existing stores by 35 per cent this year. It has reduced its packaging by 27 per cent since 2007 and is travelling 18 million fewer road miles than were travelled in 2005. Despite opening 150 new stores over the period, Asda saw a 15.8 per cent absolute reduction in its carbon footprint across the UK between 2007 and 2012. The figure in Scotland is 17 per cent.

Despite increasing the space that is taken up by its UK-wide operations by 46 per cent, Sainsbury’s energy usage in 2013-14 remained the same as it was in 2005-06. Sainsbury’s aims to supply electricity for all 86 of its Scottish stores from renewable sources by 2020. As of 2012-13, no waste goes to landfill.

The Co-op has a target to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by 2020. By 2013 some 98 per cent of its electricity came from renewable sources and it aims to have by 2017 25 per cent coming from its own renewable sources, which will be up from 7 per cent two years ago. The Co-op discovered during a trial in 2011 that it could reduce total store energy use by 20 per cent if it fitted doors to its fridges: 298 of their stores, including those in Carnoustie and Monifieth in my constituency, now have those, and it is planned to increase the number to 2,000 stores by 2020.

B&Q has reduced its carbon emissions by 29 per cent since 2006 and aims to get to 90 per cent by 2023, partly through using double-decker trailers to reduce total road miles. Waitrose’s suppliers deliver to a central hub in Cumbernauld rather than distributing products around all six supermarkets in Scotland. Greggs has installed photovoltaic systems in 10 of its bakeries, including in its bakery at Clydesmill in Cambuslang.

W H Smith is sharing vehicles with other retailers. McDonald’s is recycling cooking oil and is turning it into biodiesel for use across 40 per cent of its fleet, which saves about 6,000 tonnes of carbon per annum. It has also reduced the size of bun-tray liners by 10cm, which is saving over 85 tonnes of paper each year, and by redesigning the boxes for one of its most popular lines, and the spoons that are given out for consuming ice cream, it is saving 800 tonnes of materials every year.

I note, as the motion does, the efforts of my constituent Peter Stirling who grows sprouts and strawberries just outside Arbroath. Mr Stirling was recognised by Marks and Spencer for his outstanding contribution to sustainable farming with its farming for the future produce award for Scotland 2014 at last year’s Highland Show after he invested in biomass boilers for his greenhouse blocks and in innovative techniques to extend produce’s shelf life and reduce waste.

Of course, tackling food waste is very much a stream of the work that is being undertaken by our retailers. I will highlight two examples, both involving Tesco. In conjunction with Glenrath Farms of Peebles, it has been trialling a new type of recyclable plastic packaging to restrict seepage from broken eggs to the pack in which the eggs are contained. It believes that if the measure was rolled out for all its free-range eggs, it would potentially save an average of 1 million eggs each year.

In addition, Tesco has launched a new zip for frozen-pea packages, which it believes could save an estimated 35 tonnes of peas from rolling out of the bag and into the back of the freezer or on to the kitchen floor and going to waste.

That is real action to deliver real change across a sector that has clear plans to build on what has been delivered. The retail sector has looked closely at how it operates and has moved to reduce that environmental impact. Of course those concerned have cut their overheads as a result, but that is part of the behavioural change message for organisations as well as individuals. Change behaviour and one’s pocket and the planet both benefit.

Photo of Margaret McCulloch Margaret McCulloch Labour

I apologise because I may have to leave the chamber before 5.30—I have another meeting on.

I congratulate Graeme Dey on securing this debate on energy efficiency and the retail sector. He and I have worked together for two or three years now on the cross-party group on towns and town centres and I know that he takes an interest in retail, particularly in smaller retailers and the contribution that they make to local economies.

I also welcome the publication of the Scottish Retail Consortium’s report, “A Better Retailing Climate: Driving Resource Efficiency in Scotland”, which is referenced in the motion. Representatives of the SRC are here tonight. I want to discuss some of the content of the report in greater detail, but first I observe that the report suggests that the retail industry has made significant progress against the targets that it voluntarily set itself to reduce waste, lower emissions and improve energy efficiency.

Signatories to the SRC agreement have reported the following: energy emissions from retail buildings are down; greenhouse gas emissions from supermarket refrigeration units are down; the amount of waste that retailers send to landfill is down; and even as home delivery services are growing, carbon emissions are coming down, too.

The targets set have not just been met; they have been exceeded. That is a testament to the perseverance and ingenuity of all the retailers that have signed up to the initiative.

Among the signatories are some of the biggest names in the industry: Argos, Asda, B&Q, Boots, Debenhams, John Lewis, Morrison’s, Next, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, the Co-op and many more. Each of those signatories is a large business with a substantial footprint in the national economy and in town and city centres all across Scotland. Together they represent more than half the UK-wide retail industry, and the scale of the changes that they can make is huge.

For example, Sainsbury’s has a long-standing commitment to renewable energy. Many of its stores have ground-source heat pumps and biomass boilers. Sainsbury’s has also committed to obtaining 20 per cent of its electricity through power purchase agreements by 2020. Right now, Sainsbury’s is a partner in power purchase agreements with five on-shore windfarms, providing enough electricity to power each and every one of the company’s 86 Scottish stores as well as its depot in East Kilbride.

The John Lewis Partnership, which is behind Waitrose, is one of the few retailers that have been expanding in Scotland in recent years. Just as its new stores will feature the latest energy-saving technology, so too will its older stores, as the company rolls out LED lighting, low-flush toilets and low-carbon refrigerators across its existing estate.

Having identified that 90 per cent of its environmental impact comes from its supply chain, Asda developed its sustain and save exchange, which aims to support suppliers as they reduce water and energy usage and cut out waste.

Those firms are in a unique and powerful position within their sector not only to drive energy efficiency and waste reduction in their own business but to promote sustainability throughout their supply chains. We cannot green our economy without having business on board. That means greener retailers, but it also means greener suppliers.

That record of action is welcome but so is the promise of more. For that reason, I also want to recognise the on-going work of the industry to make further reductions in emissions and to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill to just 1 per cent by 2020.

Across the business community, in big retail chains and small local firms, there is an increasing acceptance that environmentally sustainable models can be both economically viable and socially responsible. The retail sector is uniquely placed to use economies of scale to upscale good practice and roll it out across the country. I commend its successes to date and I hope for more in the years to come.

Photo of Angus MacDonald Angus MacDonald Scottish National Party

I thank Graeme Dey for bringing this motion to the chamber and for highlighting the efforts that Scotland’s retailers have made in reducing their environmental impact.

Clearly, our ultimate aim is zero waste to landfill and, since 2005, when the baseline was set, signatories to the Scottish Retail Consortium’s “A Better Retailing Climate” report have exceeded all their targets. Graeme Dey has given some figures already, but he did not cover the fact that absolute carbon emissions from stores and transport have reduced by 13 per cent; that carbon emissions from stores have reduced by 30 per cent, relative to growth; that emissions to air from escaped refrigeration gases have reduced by 47 per cent, relative to growth; and that energy-related carbon emissions from store deliveries have reduced by 34 per cent, relative to growth.

I am glad to say that there are good examples of those achievements locally in my Falkirk East constituency, as we are lucky enough to have Asda’s Scottish distribution network operating out of Falkirk. Asda’s Falkirk recycling centre handles the waste from all 60 of its stores in Scotland. Asda trucks take waste back from the stores after dropping off their deliveries, which significantly cuts back road miles, saves fuel and costs and reduces pollution.

Every year, Asda’s Falkirk centre recycles more than 20,000 tonnes of card and plastic. It also uses a rainwater harvesting system, which has reduced water usage by a third. In addition, the Asda distribution centre in Falkirk is a strong supporter of the FareShare initiative, with all the surplus food that arises in the Falkirk distribution centre being redistributed to good causes across Scotland through FareShare. Surplus food arises when suppliers send large retailers such as Asda too much of a particular product or when goods are damaged in transit. The partnership is the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom grocery sector and offers a simple and practical way for Asda to turn an environmental problem into a real benefit for communities.

In the past year, Asda in Scotland has donated the equivalent of 265,000 meals to more than 140 good causes and has prevented hundreds of tonnes of good food from going to waste. It is now collecting its suppliers’ production food waste and delivering it to Falkirk to be redistributed, along with its own surplus food, to FareShare, with Asda covering the cost of transportation and investing £100,000 to grow the capacity of the FareShare depots in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

It is also worth highlighting that none of Asda’s stores sends food to landfill as waste. If it is still good quality, it is given to charity; if not, it is sent back to Falkirk to be processed via anaerobic digestion.

Asda has made changes to its distribution network, such as using new double-decker lorry trailers. Its vehicles now travel 18 million fewer road miles than they did in 2005, and it has reduced its transport emissions by 60 per cent. Its double-decker trailers save it around 2 million road miles every year by doubling the amount that can be carried on each journey. As a result, Asda has been awarded the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s sustainable distribution award.

Asda in Falkirk is doing its bit and leading by example. Other large retailers have much to be proud of when it comes to aiming for a zero-waste society.

We all must lead by example. It is encouraging that large retailers are now considering the entire life cycle of the products that they sell and exploring new business models that will enable them to move away from a largely linear economy towards a circular economy. However, that will require a radical change to how we make, use and reuse materials and products.

As the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee highlighted last year following its enquiry into the circular economy, we can all play our part in ensuring that the concept of the circular economy is embedded in all our mindsets.

We are getting there and will get there, but there is clearly a lot more to do and we all must lead by example.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I am pleased to take part in the debate, and I congratulate Graeme Dey on securing it.

The Scottish Conservatives commend the Scottish Retail Consortium report, which is a very positive and welcome initiative from a sector that is of enormous importance to the Scottish economy. We are also pleased to join Graeme Dey and others in congratulating the SRC for exceeding all the targets that it set out in its 2008 report.

The Scottish Government could perhaps take a leaf out of the SRC’s book on meeting green targets. Indeed, I would be interested to learn what ministers will do to engage with the retail sector to learn from its success and what it does to achieve its targets.

The achievements that the private retail sector has recorded since 2008 are impressive. They include reducing carbon emissions from stores by 30 per cent and from store deliveries by 29 per cent. Those are very welcome achievements, given the very real challenges that we face in trying to reduce emissions further in other sectors like housing and transport.

As we have long argued, improving energy and resource efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are not incompatible with growing our economy. Rather, they should complement each other. As David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, states:

“Consumers are exceptionally well-informed and rightly demanding. They want quality, affordable products but they want them produced in an environmentally sustainable way. In such a highly competitive market the retailer that cannot meet this test will ultimately fail.”

Of course, as well as being good for the environment, increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy costs help companies’ bottom lines and reduce overheads. Being resource efficient is good business sense as well as good environmental sense.

The report highlights examples of good practice in the Scottish retail sector, and I am pleased to see a number of examples in my region.

The Co-Operative store in Kilmallie Road, Caol, Fort William is that retailer’s first shop to switch to biomass heating. The new system replaces ineffective electric heating with new fan coil heaters that are heated by a £130,000 biomass boiler that is located in a purpose-built building. The boiler runs on woodchip that is supplied from waste wood products and local forestry, of which there is masses in the area.

The new system has allowed the store to make an annual saving of almost half on its existing energy bill and 90 tonnes in carbon emissions. The Co-Op plans to assess how effective that biomass pilot has been and then consider its use elsewhere.

The new Waitrose store in Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute was designed with all the latest technologies, including LED lighting, low-carbon water-cooled refrigeration, low-flush cisterns and waterless urinals. It also won a Scottish design award.

I welcome the debate and the opportunity to acknowledge the very good work that Scotland’s retailers are doing. I wish them every success in meeting the new targets that they have set for 2020. The sector is happy to work closely with the Government but seems to be outperforming the public sector in achieving resource efficiency targets.

Photo of Aileen McLeod Aileen McLeod Scottish National Party

I, too, thank Graeme Dey for raising this important issue and for securing time for this evening’s debate on welcoming a more energy efficient retail sector. I am delighted that the Parliament is highlighting the Scottish Retail Consortium’s publication “A Better Retailing Climate”, which the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, Richard Lochhead, launched a few weeks ago in January. I also welcome the SRC to the public gallery.

I very much welcome the leadership that the SRC’s members have shown in driving resource efficiency and in sourcing and producing products in an environmentally responsible way. Clearly, we agree that Scotland’s retailers are to be congratulated on their focus on resource efficiency, because of their ambition and the considerable progress that has been achieved.

I thank my colleagues for their comments. Members made some valuable points; it was certainly good to hear so many positive examples from their constituencies. I am pleased that we are united in recognising the achievements of our retailers and the Scottish Retail Consortium, and it is right that we give the sector the credit that it deserves. Margaret McCulloch made a good point about retailers’ influence on their suppliers and Asda’s good work in helping its suppliers to cut resource costs. Asda is not alone in that, and I will mention another example in a moment.

Angus MacDonald made relevant points on the benefits and opportunities of a circular economy. Scotland is already recognised internationally as an early mover towards a circular economy. I commend Graeme Dey’s constituent Peter Stirling who, as Graeme Dey said, was recognised by Marks and Spencer for his outstanding contribution to sustainable farming with the 2014 farming for the future produce award for Scotland at last year’s Highland show.

There are few things more important to a business than building a sustainable supply chain. The Scottish Government and its agencies—notably resource efficient Scotland—have played our part. Collaboration across retailers and brands through Government-sponsored initiatives such as the Courtauld commitment and the product sustainability forum is helping to drive progress and to target effort to deliver the greatest environmental benefits. The initiatives focus on savings across energy, water and material use, and on preventing waste.

There are several individual examples of excellent work with resource efficient Scotland, such as Marks and Spencer’s efforts to improve resource efficiency throughout its Scottish supply chain by helping small and large suppliers to manage their resource use and reduce overheads. Another example is Scotmid’s work on resource efficient retrofitting of its smaller stores, thereby cutting energy use and reducing costs for the long term.

This year, resource efficient Scotland will take its programme a step further by offering additional support to all our most resource-intensive industrial sectors, including retail, through agreeing sector road maps for decarbonisation. Through that programme, we will support industry to reduce carbon emissions while maintaining economic competitiveness. I am pleased that resource efficient Scotland is discussing with the Scottish Retail Consortium and the British Retail Consortium how to develop a road map for the retail sector, which can then inform an agreed programme of activity.

The retail road map will complement the road maps that are also in preparation for other energy-intensive sectors such as the food and drink and chemicals sectors. Scotland’s retailers have an enormous economic and social footprint, and the steps that the sector is taking to manage its environmental impact are an excellent reminder of the influence that it can have on consumer behaviour.

It is now more than four months since our charge for single-use carrier bags came into force and we are already hearing anecdotal evidence of significant reductions in bag use among customers. That can only mean fewer discarded bags harming our natural environment and littering the streets in our communities. That is due in no small part to the hard work that retailers have put in to helping their customers to adapt. That is just one area in which retailers’ influence can change Scotland for the better.

To answer the question that my colleague Jamie McGrigor asked, the Scottish Government has established resource efficient Scotland, the aim of which is precisely to work with businesses across all sectors to reduce energy, water and material use and to cut waste.

I welcome the debate, and I thank Graeme Dey again for bringing this important issue to the chamber tonight. In doing so, he has enabled us to celebrate the good work that was highlighted by the report, “A Better Retailing Climate: Driving Resource Efficiency”, and the leadership that Scotland’s retailers have shown in driving down resource use.

Our retail sector has a good story to tell and it is to be commended for taking the issue as seriously as it has, particularly in relation to cutting carbon emissions and reducing its carbon footprint. The Scottish Government takes its role seriously in that shared agenda because, ultimately, there are significant environmental and economic benefits for us all. That is why I welcome the very real progress that the retail sector has made thus far on resource efficiency and why I recognise that we must encourage continued partnership working in support of the move to a circular economy.

Meeting closed at 17:30.