Retail Sector (Energy Efficiency)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2015.

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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.