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Retailers show commitment to resource efficiency

The latest report from the European Retail Forum for Sustainability shows retailers taking the environment into consideration in their business decisions more actively than ever. Companies in the forum are paying more attention to the greening of their supply chains, sustainable distribution systems and the use of renewable energies. This shows that environmental responsibility increasingly make business sense and contributes to EU policies to promote sustainable consumption and production.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Retailers are in a strong position to support resource efficiency – they can influence their supply chain's environmental performance and stimulate changes in consumer behaviour. The environmental commitments delivered by the members of the Retail Forum have demonstrated what is possible and I would like to see this positive experience being rolled out through more widespread and general adoption of such good sustainable practices. The retail sector has a lot to gain by increasing consumer confidence in the credibility of environmental claims and actions and I wish the Retail Forum success in further developing the tools to enable this."

Retailers in the Forum pledge to carry out specific environmental actions to contribute to sustainable consumption and resource efficiency. Since the Forum was created in 2009 its members' targets and achievements have been monitored on an annual basis. The latest monitoring report describes the 390 environmental commitments made in 3 categories (“what we sell”, “how we sell” and “communication”) by 2010 – 100 more than in 2009.

A number of best practice achievements have been highlighted by the report. To promote supply chain sustainability, the Metro Group, in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), introduced a supplier training programme to developing and emerging countries. Auchan achieved savings of almost 10,000 tons in the use of packaging material, while Mercadona eliminated 80 % of single-use plastic bags in 150 stores. Tesco UK achieved the goal of sending zero waste to landfills, while Inditex reduced the average power consumption in 840 stores by 42 %. More examples of commitments made by specific retailers can be found in the report.

The report also reveals that commitments increasingly reflect the recommendations and best practices described in Retail Forum issue papers on sustainable timber, environmental labelling, energy efficiency and carbon footprint of stores, environmental life cycle information for products, information to consumers, packaging, transport and logistics.

Background

The Retail Forum was launched in March 2009 as a voluntary multi-stakeholder platform. Membership is open to all retailers who join the Retailers' Environmental Action Programme (REAP) and also to civil society organisations.

It was set up to facilitate dialogue between the European Commission, retailers and key stakeholders, to generate a better understanding of the practical measures needed to promote sustainable consumption. Part of the Europe 2020 Strategy to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the core idea of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) policy is to meet our own growth and consumption needs in such a way that we do not deprive future generations.

SCP policy contributes to Europe 2020's Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative by helping to translate macro-level objectives of the Resource Efficiency policy (decoupling economic growth from resource use and environmental degradation) to micro-level objectives, thereby driving individual economic actors to achieve the best environmental performance economically possible.

Currently, retailers contribute 13 % of Europe's GDP while the food and drinks, housing and mobility sectors generate around 70-80 % of the negative environmental impacts of consumption. As retailers are active in all three areas, enhancing sustainability through retailer action can reap significant environmental benefits.

Further information:

Services on Monitoring Retailers’ REAP commitments (full report, summary report and annexes)

See also:

The Retail Forum:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/industry/retail/index_en.htm

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)

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