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Tesco: every little helps when reducing carbon emissions

Product Carbon Emissions


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tesco: every little helps when reducing carbon emissions” was written by Jackie Wills for the Guardian Professional Network, for theguardian.com on Friday 17th May 2013 08.56 UTC

Nearly two-thirds of Tesco‘s product emissions are generated by customers and a minority of high-impact products – just 139 out of the 70,000 it sells in the UK.

As Tesco embarked on the monumental task of determining the carbon footprint of each of its products, it came to the stark realisation that emissions were concentrated at the beginning and end of the food chain – on farms and in customers’ homes or journeys to the shops.

As part of its goal to cut product emissions by a third by 2020, Tesco combined financial, product and carbon information to come up with a framework it could apply to the sausages, bottles of conditioner or bunches of bananas that fill up supermarket trolleys each week.

Tesco’s analysis of each product took six months working with consultants Best Foot Forward. The team used BFF’s Footprinter tool and tailored it to generate a portfolio footprint, which uses sales and product specifications alongside carbon data from suppliers. The framework produces rigorous results so Tesco can understand each product’s carbon impact.

The insight that the portfolio footprint gave Tesco was even more important, allowing it to see just how dominant agricultural inputs and customer use are (generating 38% and 35% of product emissions, respectively) and showing that just five commercial categories generate half total emissions. It also identified the retailer’s 139 high-impact products.

Tesco now has hard evidence of where it needs to focus its attention to achieve results. As a consequence, the company plans to make carbon-cutting initiatives with farmers and customers a priority. It intends to continue dairy farm footprinting work and expand it to other livestock. It will also partner with branded suppliers to influence consumers and investigate personalised carbon footprints for customers.

Jackie Wills is part of the wordworks network

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