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Co-operative Launches Water, Waste Targets

Having achieved an 18 percent reduction in water consumption since 2008, the UK’s Co-operative Group grocery chain has pledged to reduce the water consumption across its operations by 30 percent by 2014 over 2006 levels, as it launches its latest Ethical Plan.

The Co-operative Group Ethical Plan 2013-15 also sets out a raft of other ethical and environmental goals. Among the goals, some of which are new and some of which were previously announced, is one that aims to generate the equivalent of 25 percent of the company’s electricity using renewable sources by 2017. The Co-op has also pledged to continue work with its Clean Energy Revolution campaign, which seeks to end the use of unconventional fossil fuels and “inspire community energy growth.”

The Co-op first launched its Ethical Plan in February 2011, with the aim of being recognized as the UK’s most socially responsible business. The plan is updated every year, which the Co-op says ensures the targets remain cutting edge.

The new plan includes company plans to build a new head office by 2013 that the Co-op says will set “new standards” in sustainable design, construction and operation in the UK.

In terms of waste, the Co-op plans to ensure that the “vast majority” of its operational waste is diverted away from landfill by the end of 2013, and will expand its work with charity Fareshare on food waste. To date the company has achieved a 15 percent weight reduction in packaging. It is now planning to reduce the environmental impact by a further 15 percent by the end of 2013 and increase its carrier bag reduction target to 75 percent.

The Co-op has achieved a 40 percent reduction in its absolute greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, and the plan reiterates the firm’s previously announced goal of reducing that metric by 50 percent by 2020, from the same baseline.

After moving its palm oil sourcing to a sustainable footing in 2011, the company plans to source its soya sustainably by 2015, the plan says.

This month the Co-op, Nestlé and Sainsbury’s announced plans to improve the environmental performance of some of their products following research from the Product Sustainability Forum, which shows that certain products contribute between 21 and 33 percent of household greenhouse gases.

As a result of the study, the Co-operative, Nestlé and Sainsbury’s will pilot projects called “pathfinders,” intended to shrink the supply chain footprint of products with the most greenhouse gas emissions, product waste, and water, energy and resource use.

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