Can you handle Tesco’s carbon cuts?

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Transport and logistics is the only sector in Europe in which greenhouse gas emissions are significantly increasing instead of decreasing, according to PE International, a German consultancy specialising in sustainability.

You’ve probably heard this before – so why go back over this ground again? Well, PE has just been hired by Tesco to help the retailer cut the carbon footprint of its supply chain by 30 per cent over the next ten years.

Tesco set this target after it found that the carbon emissions in its supply chain were some ten times bigger than the direct emissions of Tesco itself.

Tesco is the third largest retailer in the world. That means an awful lot of suppliers are just about to be told to cut their carbon emission by 30 per cent.

The strategy is focused on product groups – Tesco is already working on milk, tinned foods and wine. The aim it to identify the “hotspots” where most of the carbon emissions occur and focus efforts on those. Following the pilot phase, the project will be rolled at to all product groups.

The success of the project will be decided by how successful Tesco is in getting suppliers to reduce their emissions – a fact recognised by PE which says: “Suppliers have multiple questions and may even challenge Tesco’s targets, so PE is working closely together with Tesco in finding the best approach to effectively motivate suppliers.”

Ignore the split infinitive in that last sentence, the meaning is clear, and for some – ominous. Tesco is not an organisation that is used to taking no for an answer.

And there is another potential problem for suppliers. Tesco is not the only retailer working on this issue, so what happens if one of its competitors takes a different approach?

Remember what happened with the plan for nutrition labelling on food. Each retailer has adopted its own approach to presenting the same basic information – some use pie charts, some use “traffic lights”, some are colour-coded and some are not. Confused? You will be.

It would unwise to allow such problems to get in the way when the moves to cut carbon footprints are just about to get such a huge push forward.

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