Through our operations and supply chain we can affect the quality of our environment, so we are looking at ways to limit these impacts and take proactive steps to enhance the wildlife and habitats around us.Gemma Lacey, Director, Sustainability and Communications

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As the greatest challenge facing humanity today, we recognise the need to act on climate change now. Our operations emit greenhouse gas emissions, our biggest contributor being our Food business. We are also responsible for indirect emissions, for example through our supply chain.

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Our first priority has been to assess The Southern Co-operative’s operational carbon footprint in order to understand the biggest areas of opportunity for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Our footprint includes emissions relating to energy use, refrigeration and cooling, owned and leased company vehicles, business travel, water and waste. In 2015, our carbon footprint (Scope 1 and 2) was 23,285 tonnes CO2e (down 7% on 2014). This equates to 68.35 tonnes per £m sales (17% decrease on 2012 baseline). Including Scope 3 emissions, our footprint was 25.070 tonnes CO2e.

image showing the different scopes and what they stand for

Not surprisingly, energy-related emissions account for more than 75% of our total carbon footprint. This is followed by the emissions associated with refrigeration and cooling (22%). Other areas of our footprint such as business travel, while having a significantly smaller carbon impact, are still important for us to address.

Establishing a longer-term plan for tackling carbon emissions remains a priority for us in 2015.

As the biggest contributor to our business carbon footprint, coupled with concerns about future energy pricing and security, the reduction of energy consumption and improving efficiency is a key priority for us.

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A range of energy-efficiency measures now form part of our development and reformat programmes, helping to drive down energy usage. Measures include the introduction of building monitoring systems to centrally control lighting, heating and cooling and other equipment such as bakery ovens, the installation of LED energy-efficient lighting and doors on chiller units.

Saving water

Although not a big user of water, we are working to reduce consumption through better measurement, use of water-efficient technologies and colleague engagement. We have worked with Waterscan to better understand our water consumption, identifying ways we can use less water and lower our water bills.

Sustainable development

The Oaks, Havant Crematorium reflects the highest environmental standards, both in building design and construction and the development of the surrounding grounds. It employs the latest techniques in cremation and clean-air technology to prevent pollution to the air and surrounding environment. It also uses low-level, energy-efficient lighting to minimise light pollution, passive ventilation in the main chapel and a heat-exchange system to meet the building’s heating and hot water needs, significantly reducing the overall energy demand of the building.

Our first ‘eco’ store opened in 2012 in Chobham, Surrey featuring a sustainably-sourced timber-framed and clad building, high-specification insulation, natural refrigerants to run the chillers and freezers, double-glazed doors on chiller cabinets to conserve energy and uses renewable energy sources for heating and ultra-low-energy LED lighting. This approach has informed further developments. We are looking to achieve BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) ‘very good’ rating for our new development at Freshwater, which opened in September 2015.

Freshwater, IOW store layout - sustainable building infographic

Freshwater, IOW store layout – sustainable building infographic

The majority of our waste comes from the food side of our business. Food waste is of increasing public concern, whether this is wastage linked to the supply chain and farming practices, storage and distribution, operational activity or customer wastage.

Waste from our operations

In early 2014 all food stores moved to new arrangements to backhaul all store waste to a central depot where it is then sorted and either sent for recycling, anaerobic digestion or on an energy from waste facility.

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This means that 100% of our food waste and virtually all other waste is now diverted from landfill. As well as having a positive environmental impact the initiative has resulted in financial savings of around £125,000 per year.

Materials other than polythene and cardboard (which have been recycled for many years), such as cans, paper and empty plastic bottles are now also being recycled. All food waste is being sent to an anaerobic digestion facility, where bacteria digest the waste down to create gas, which is then converted into electricity. All remaining customer waste is being sent to another UK facility that creates energy from waste.

We continue to explore ways to reduce the amount of waste we produce and to identify further opportunities to boost recycling. New systems in our food stores are now helping us to better manage our product availability and wastage.

Tackling food waste

New systems have been rolled out across our Retail stores that will enable our teams to offer our customers better ranges, closely tailored to local demand. This is also helping us to better manage our product availability and wastage.

A number of our stores are involved in donating food to local pig farmers and, in the case of stores on the Isle of Wight, the local zoo. Through our relationship with the Federal Retail Trading Services (FRTS), who manage our distribution network, we also work with the charity FareShare, who passes the food on to charities and community groups to transform it into nutritious meals for vulnerable people. The aim in 2016  is to redistribute over 500 tonnes of food which will mean more than 1 million meals for those in need.

The Southern Co-operative supported the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s (IGD) 2015 campaign Working on Waste (WOW), which united more than 80 food and grocery companies in a shared determination to help industry employees to reduce their household food waste. We engaged colleagues through our intranet, for example, by writing blogs about the campaign and offering tips for reducing household food waste. Communal colleague areas at our Lakeside office were kitted out with Love Food, Hate Waste posters and guidance on food waste was offered.

Helping customers reduce waste 

As a signatory to the Courtauld Commitment and supporter of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, we are working hard to reduce food waste by helping customers to keep food fresh for longer and reduce food waste in their homes. Co-operative Food was the first retailer to introduce storage instructions on loose, fresh-produce bags, and we are working with WRAP to introduce clear, customer-friendly labelling on other high-wastage categories, including bread and morning goods, to give our customers the information they need to avoid wasting food at home.

We are also providing funding and support to local food banks, rolling out food collection points in the areas of greatest need across our trading area. So far this has included: Bognor Regis, Bournemouth, Chichester, Eastbourne, Brighton and Hove, Frome, Farnham, Gillingham, Gosport & Fareham, Haywards Heath, Heart of Devon, Isle of Wight, Lee-on-Solent, Meon Valley, Portsmouth, Taunton, Warminster, West Berks, Winchester.

Preventing waste – Packaging

We know how frustrating it is that you can’t recycle all our packaging but we’re proud that over 80% of our packaging (by weight) is easy to recycle through local authority collections. The remaining 20% is mainly products with lightweight packaging, which is difficult to recycle.

This 20% in weight accounts for nearly half of the products on our shelves though, so we know that when you buy our products what you see is a large number of them that can’t be recycled. Unfortunately we are limited by the recycling facilities that are available, but we are always looking for opportunities to move products into more recyclable packaging.

Recycling waste electricals

Unwanted electrical equipment is the UK’s fastest growing type of waste.

Many electrical items can be repaired or recycled, saving natural resources and the environment. If we do not recycle, electrical equipment will end up in landfill where hazardous substances will leak out and cause soil and water contamination – harming wildlife and also human health.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive requires countries to maximise separate collection and environmentally friendly processing of these items. In the UK, distributors (including retailers) must provide a system which allows all customers buying new electrical equipment the opportunity to recycle their old items free of charge.

How we are helping

To remind you that old electrical equipment can be recycled, it is now marked with a crossed-out wheeled bin symbol. Please do not throw any electrical equipment (including those marked with the crossed out wheeled bin symbol) in your bin.

WEEE symbol

WEEE symbol

As a retailer of electrical products, we have legal obligations under these regulations. This involves contributing funds to the Distributor Take Back Scheme (DTS) which is investing in local facilities so customers can locally recycle old electrical and electronic appliances.

To find your nearest recycling sites for waste electrical and electronic products, contact your local council, or visit www.recycle-more.co.uk and type your postcode into the recycling bank locator.

Recycling Batteries

Under the Waste Battery Regulations, we offer a take back scheme for all portable waste batteries. Please return your waste batteries to your nearest The Southern Co-operative food store. Find your nearest store here. Please do not return any batteries by post.

Alternatively, you can find your local waste portable battery recycling facility at www.recyclenow.com 

Carrier Bags

carrier bag charge

Why reduce the number of single-use carrier bags?

In line with Government legislation, The Southern Co-operative introduced carrier bag charging across all of its food stores in October 2015. In 2014, we gave away approximately 29 million single-use plastic bags and our target was to see this number reduced by at least 50% by April 2020. Since the levy was introduced on 5th October 2015, The Southern Co-operative has seen a reduction of over 70% of single-use carrier bags given out by its 195 food stores.

Since the levy was introduced, The Southern Co-operative has sold 4,308,808 standard carrier bags. In the same period the previous year (Oct 2014-April 2015) The Southern Co-operative would have given away approx 14,500,00 (based on stock levels as bags were not scanned prior to levy). Between 5th October 2015 and 5th April 2016, The Southern Co-operative has cut the number of single-use carrier bags given to its customers by more than 10million.

At The Southern Co-operative, we have been really pleased with the 71% reduction of single-use carrier bags we have seen in our stores. However, the 5p levy has helped us to raise over £172,000 towards our Love Your Neighbourhood programme to help support our local communities, and we are pleased to announce that 100% of the proceeds will be donated because we believe that these funds belong back in the communities that helped to raise them.

“Love Your Neighbourhood seeks to address four key issues we have identified in our society following a survey of over 4,500 members and customers. This will be addressed by our four regional partnerships, as well as multiple local partnerships between our food stores, funeral homes and local causes of their choice. We have already helped a number of local causes with the carrier bag funding since we launched our pilot for our new programme in January; we are now looking forward to helping even more local groups and are excited to start our new regional partnerships”. Jessica Hughes, Communications and Community Engagement Manager

• It is estimated that UK shoppers go through 13,000 carrier bags in their lifetime (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
• 80% of British shoppers put everything into free shopping bags.
• Plastic bags are usually made of polyethylene which is not bio-degradable.
• As well as taking energy and emissions to produce, each plastic bag can take up to 500-1000 years to decompose.
• Even if they are biodegradable and fully compostable, they still represent a waste of resources through the raw materials used to create them and the energy used in their production, transportation and disposal which creates harmful emissions

Championing our local wildlife and countryside

Through partnerships with The Wildlife Trusts and CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) Hampshire, we are creating opportunities for our colleagues and members to get actively involved in protecting and promoting our local wildlife and countryside.

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In addition to member visits and colleague volunteering at The Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserves, we have supported Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Urban Wildlink project, which is creating an urban ‘living landscape’ across southeast Dorset; worked with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to enrich wildlife habitats at our Oaks Crematorium (see below), and supported the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Forest Rangers project.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight‟s „Make a Wild Change‟ campaign. A recent survey found that the amount of time children spend outside has dropped by 50% in just one generation. The Trust is hoping to inspire a new generation of nature lovers by encouraging them to get out and about exploring the outdoors. TSC sponsored a film, introduced by Chris Packham, that showcases the work by the Trust and new trail packs with items like bug pots and activity cards to help families explore their wild.

We are also sponsoring and judging, for the second year running, the Community and Voluntary category in CPRE Hampshire’s Countryside awards. These awards recognise significant achievements across the county that support CPRE’s goal of “standing up for the countryside”.

Active and genuine involvement in our local communities is part of The Southern Co-operative’s way of working, so we are delighted to be both lead sponsor and sponsor of the Community and Voluntary category.Gemma Lacey, Director, Sustainability and Communications

Conservation at The Oaks 

Working in partnership with the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, we have developed a conservation plan for The Oaks Crematorium, Havant. Environmental impacts were managed as part of the development, and the green ‘living’ roof of the building, a wildflower meadow, newly planted native trees and flowers and a cleared natural pond now provide additional habitats for wildlife.

Biodiversity surveys conducted by the Trust in 2014 and 2015 are starting to show the benefits of these enhancements. A rare species of floating club rush continues to thrive in the natural pond, and surrounding planting has increased the presence of species such as flag iris and bluebells. Wildflower meadow surveys have identified meadow plants like wild carrot and marjoram, ox-eye daisy and scarlet pimpernel and several butterfly species, including the brown argus and bees have been observed. Erected bird boxes hvae showed evidence of nesting and breeding birds, like blue tits and great tits, in all three boxes and two bat boxes have now been erected.

The Trust has also been helping us to develop a long-term conservation plan for Clayton Wood, our natural burial ground. The aim to create a beautiful landscape that complements its surroundings which lie with the South Downs National Park and a living landscape that provides corridors for wildlife. Bird and bat boxes have recently been installed and an amphibian survey has discovered breeding greater crested newts.

Leaving an environmental legacy

As well as managing the environmental impacts of our estate and operations, we have an important role to play in helping our local communities to be more environmentally sustainable.

Supporting environmental education projects for young people is an area important to our members and this has therefore been a focus. These are just some of the projects we have supported:

  • Tuppenny Barn in West Sussex, which is building a sustainable education centre to host organic food workshops for local children and other courses and events.
  • Youth Moves in Bristol are building a sustainable roundhouse at their Springfield allotments in Knowle. This will act as a community hub, hosting various community activities and events particularly linked to their forest schools programme.