Morrisons Plans to reach Net Zero 5 Years Ahead of Original Target

Supermarket giant Morrisons has become the latest major company to bring forward its commitment to be net zero. It has pledged to achieve net zero emissions across its own operations by 2035, five years ahead of its previous ambition and 15 years ahead of the UK government target.

The move followed a similar announcement by Sainsbury’s perhaps spurred on by Metro.co.uk who recently called on the UK’s major supermarkets to do more to help save the planet telling them that it was “time to shelve” damaging environmental practices. Like Sainsbury’s, the chain had previously stated that its target was to reach net zero by 2040. Undoubtedly these announcements will pile pressure on other supermarkets to act especially at a time when the world is already focused on the UK hosting the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

Morrisons has announced plans to work with more environmentally friendly farms in the UK, to use low carbon vehicles, reduce food waste and lower food miles.

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The company which was recently taken over in a £7bn deal has become the first supermarket to own and operate its own solar farm. The solar operation will stretch to 230,000 panels covering a near 125-acre site and generate energy to supply 20% of the power required by the stores involved. The panels will be installed on top of two thirds of Morrisons’s stores and sites by 2025 and are expected to produce over 100MW of electricity. The solar farm will be one of the biggest in the UK. It is also estimated that they will reduce their CO2 emissions by 21,000 tonnes per year which is equivalent to 42,000 return flights to Spain! The supermarket has confirmed that it has already installed over 5MW of solar power across 37 sites but that it now wants to accelerate the roll-out.

The supermarket is not only planning to cut its operational scope 1 and 2 emissions but has further committed to significantly reducing its value chain scope 3 emissions across its own brand supply chains by 30% over the next decade. Here’s an explanation of what’s involved with the different scopes:

  1. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.
  2. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by the reporting company.
  3. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Morrisons is already collaborating with its suppliers to cut its scope 3 emissions and is adopting several new initiatives in order to reduce its own emissions faster than previously anticipated.

These initiatives include switching to low carbon transport and offering EV charging; certifying its palm oil and soy are sourced without deforestation; being directly supplied by ‘net zero’ British farmers; reducing energy and using renewable energy; reducing food waste and food miles; ensuring zero deforestation in it supply chain and as already mentioned installing its own solar arrays on the roof of Morrisons stores to power the store appliances that require the most energy like fridges and freezers. Most of the power generated by the solar panels will be channelled straight into Morrisons stores and sites, rather than going into the National Grid.

The company has committed to reporting its progress every year and is working with the UN-backed Science Based Targets initiative to approve its new Scope 3 targets. 

The company is ahead of its forecast as far as reducing its operational emissions are concerned. It promised a 33% cut in carbon emissions by 2025 and the current reduction has already reached 32% which means that almost 300,000 tonnes of CO2 have been saved since 2017. It also plans to help its suppliers audit and reduce their CO2 emissions. Morrisons has a robust carbon reduction plan rather than relying heavily on offsetting which will please environmentalists.

David Potts, CEO at Morrisons, said:

“As a supermarket we depend on a healthy planet to produce the goods we sell to customers. We’ve committed to removing carbon emissions, rather than setting a carbon neutral target that would depend heavily on offsetting. We’re also investing resources to bring forward our net zero commitment by five years which is extremely ambitious but very necessary. Our new solar farm and net zero carbon agriculture programme are just two ways we’ll achieve our commitment.”

The chain has partnered with the National Farmers Union and McDonalds to launch a School of Sustainable Farming at Harpers

Adams University in Newport, Shropshire with the aim of training farmers in low-carbon farming techniques.

Morrisons compares well with most of its rivals and has won praise from Greenpeace for its work on plastics. M&S and Co-op have also pledged to get to net zero by 2040.

Hugh Jones, the managing director of the Carbon Trust which worked with Morrisons to measures its emissions said: 

“By aligning its goals with a 1.5°C future, Morrisons is ensuring it builds resilience firmly into its business model and will be positioned to thrive as the global economy moves to zero emissions.”

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