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Marks and Spencer Plan A 2020 revision sets cooling bar higher

Retailer puts zero carbon at heart of its strategy, extends targets to international operations and commits to ‘full evaluation’ of doors on fridges

Marks and Spencer has set the environmental bar higher for retailers with an revision of its  Plan A targets that will see it striving for zero carbon stores and an energy efficient supply chain.

The refrigeration and HVAC operations have their own stretching targets to make up their contribution, including a public commitment to doors on fridges – though that commitment is only to ‘fully evaluating’ them by 2015.

The Plan A 2020 plan has seen a wholesale revision of its community and sustainability goals, grouping its 100 new or revised targets into four new pillars: In-touch; Inspiration; Integrity; and Innovation.

The carbon reduction targets are contained in its Innovation pillar, and in line with the retailer’s previous policies, it aims to embrace the whole store life cycle from construction to operation to waste. One of M+S’s new commitments is to formulate a ‘circular economy’ policy by 2016, ensuring that what happens to products, materials and equipment after they have been used or at ‘end of life’ is part of the equation.

The 2020 target for store refrigeration emissions is an 80 per cent cut against the 2006-07 baseline to 1.9 tCO2e per 1,000 sq ft. By 2013-14, it had already achieved 73 per cent, thanks to its widespread R407a replacement plan and better leak reduction.

The retailer has, for this revision at least, continued with its headline commitment of ‘replacing HFCS’ by 2030, with the underlying commitment to ‘use carbon dioxide refrigeration in all new UK and Ireland system installations’. The national estate now has 78 stores using CO2 refrigeration, with five entirely HFC-free.

But the scale of the task presented to retailers by the F-Gas regulations in phasing down HFCs in the coming years is demonstrated by M+S’s reporting of the refrigerant composition of its estate: 78 per cent is currently HFCs.

The vexed question of doors on fridges is addressed with a new commitment that ‘By 2015, we will conduct a trial to retrofit doors on fridges in the existing estate and fully evaluate it with recommendations for future rollout.’ The retailer has already reported some progress on this it said: ‘This year, we installed doors on refrigerators in our new store in Holland. We’ve also developed several options for trial in the UK next year.’

The company is proud of its carbon neutral operations across the UK and Ireland and the new commitments include a goal to extend this to international operations, where feasible (it doesn’t own all its international properties). In 2013-14 it achieved carbon neutrality globally on 566,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent emissions by using 302,000 tCO2e of renewable electricity and offsetting the remaining 264,000 tCO2e. As a global operation it has now set a baseline of 30 tCO2e per 1,000 sq ft of salesfloor.

Its direct carbon emissions in UK and Ireland have been reduced by 31 per cent against the baseline to 169,000 30 tCO2e. Overall gross emissions, both direct and indirect and including such elements as waste were down 24 per cent to 533,000 tCO2e in the same period. UK and Ireland recorded 32 tCO2e per 1,000 sq ft of salesfloor, a 37 per cent reduction on the baseline, thanks largely to reduced refrigeration emissions, improved energy efficiency and better waste reduction.

In terms of energy efficiency, by 2020 the retailer wants to halve its energy usage against the baseline of 57.4 kWh per sq ft. As of 2013-14, it had reached 34 per cent.

Among the most interesting commitments are to a variety of innovative techniques. It is launching a ‘Plan A Innovation Programme’ which will highlight technical challenges which need to be addressed to meet its new targets, with the aim of engaging industry in solving them. It is opening a further five of its Sustainable Learning Stores, where it pilots new techniques, in international territories, and it has committed to a pilot of 20 of its food distribution vehicles running with nitrogen as refrigerant.

M+S has also looked its construction policies, committing to trialling offsite techniques for stores and shop-fits and, enshrining a commitment to evaluating how it uses Building Information Modelling by 2016. It has however fallen short of a stronger commitment to a broader rollout at this stage.

It claims too, to be the first major retailer to set out to measure and model the carbon footprint of its logistics supply chain, from supplier to store.

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