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Co-op Sustainability Report: GHG Goal Met Six Years Early; Carbon Neutrality Delayed

The Co-operative Group, the owner of the UK’s fifth-largest supermarket chain, has met its target of a 35 percent cut in operational GHG emissions, versus 2006 levels, six years early. It now says it will aim for a 50 percent cut by 2020.

The company exceeded the 2017 target, set in its 2010 sustainability report, with a 40 percent decline since 2006. The drop reflects a 10 percent reduction compared with 2010.

But the Co-operative says it is not going to meet its carbon-neutral-by-2012 target set in last year’s sustainability report. The company now says it will achieve carbon neutrality by 2014.

By comparison, in June, Co-operative competitor Marks & Spencer announced that all M&S-operated stores, offices, warehouse and delivery fleets in the UK have been certified as carbon neutral. Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has pledged to reduce operational carbon emissions by 30 percent in absolute terms and and 65 percent on a relative basis, compared with 2005.

According to the report, the Co-operative generated three percent of its energy needs from renewable sources in 2011. The company says its second wind farm is under construction and two others will be built, delivering an additional 15 percent of its energy requirements.

The company, which also operates pharmacies, banks, insurance, investments and funeral services, says this puts it on track to generate the equivalent of 25 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2017 — another of the goals it set its 2010 sustainability report, in which the Co-operative Group launched its Ethical Plan, intending to become the “most socially responsible business in the UK.”

It also says that Angel Square, the Co-operative’s new flagship office building, is set to achieve the construction industry’s BREEAM “outstanding” rating when it opens in October.

The Co-operative’s water consumption increased by 1.6 percent in 2011 compared to the prior year. But it’s still 18 percent lower than 2008’s water use, according to the sustainability report. The 2011 report also sets a new water goal: to reduce consumption across operations by 30 percent by 2014, based on 2008 levels.

In terms of reducing packaging and food waste, the Co-operative says it has reduced the number of shopping bags used by 65 percent, compared with 2006, which puts it on track to reduce this an additional 10 percent — to 75 percent — by 2013. The Co-operative also reduced the carbon impact of its own-brand packaging 11 percent compared with 2009 (its original goal was a 10 percent reduction by 2012).

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