Retail Sector (Energy Efficiency)

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

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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.