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Supermarkets’ Energy-Savings Potential Can Be Sustained ‘Up to 10 Years’

Supermarkets are able to continually improve their energy efficiency for much longer than is commonly believed, according to UK researchers.

Dr. Rory Sullivan and Professor Andy Gouldson, who lead the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy project “Governance Beyond the State? Corporations and the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy,” found that the seven UK supermarkets that report on their environmental performance experienced energy efficiency improvements between 2.5 and 5.5 percent a year over the past three to five years. Additionally, these companies continue to achieve annual energy efficiency improvements between 2 to 3 percent for up to 10 years, the authors say.

Writing for the Guardian, Sullivan and Gouldson say that these companies’ targets indicate that they will be able to sustain this level of energy efficiency for at least five to 10 more years.

There is “no silver bullet” for delivering these results, the authors say. Instead, the energy efficiency improvements come from a range of activities directed at reducing energy use and GHG emissions. Additionally, energy management infrastructure and systems, including setting and publicizing targets to keep companies accountable, are “essential.”

Many of the major UK supermarkets have been vocal about their sustainability efforts. Marks & Spencer launched its energy efficiency plan, called Plan A, in 2007. The retailer listed 100 commitments to achieve in five years, and then extended Plan A to 180 commitments to achieve by 2015, intended to combat climate change, reduce water use, use sustainable raw materials and trade ethically.

By the end of 2010/11, M&S reported it had achieved 95 commitments, with 77 on plan, seven behind and one on hold. As of 2012, all Marks & Spencer-operated stores, offices, warehouse and delivery fleets in the UK have been certified as carbon neutral.

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s launched its sustainability plan, called 20 by 2020, in 2011. The plan sets out 20 initiatives to be achieved by 2020, including a pledge to reduce operational carbon emissions by 30 percent in absolute terms and and 65 percent on a relative basis, compared with 2005.

Meanwhile, grocery chain the Co-operative’s ethical plan, which also began in 2011, has helped reduce its operational greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent and its water consumption by 20 percent over the past 12 months.

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