Christmas cards, carbon footprints and busy bees

By Paul Crewe on 03 January 2014

Paul Crewe Recycling

Like homes across the country, our stores in communities throughout the UK also had a visit from Santa… He managed to deliver our Christmas card collection boxes, which are now proudly displayed at the front of over 1,000 stores for customers to recycle their cards and help reduce pressure on the world's forests. Our online customers can also give their cards to their driver to support this initiative, and for the very first time this year we’ve also got collection boxes on display in other locations, including a leading London publishers and a number of Government Departments.

We've had lots of support for this activity over the years to help the work of the Forest Stewardship Council UK. This year we really have extended the number of collection points so we hope to make an even bigger donation. We make the donation each year based on the volume of the cards collected and we’re hoping to reach the £10,000 mark! It’s also something my family gets behind every year because it's such an easy way to help reduce the Crewe household Christmas waste and we all know the cards will be recycled in the UK and made into other paper products which means by doing this each year, we are supporting the FSC to give future generations the gift of healthy forests. It really is true that more often than not, the simple ideas work best.

Helping to increase recycling rates is part of what my team do every day and as I reflect on 2013 we made significant progress in this area by achieving no waste to landfill in the summer. Now all food that can’t be used by our charity partners or in animal feed to support British farmers is used to generate energy through anaerobic digestion, and all the general waste from our stores is recycled or turned into fuel.

Even in the past few months my team has made some great strides towards some of our environmental targets. For example, in October we launched our all-colleague campaign to help us become the UK’s greenest grocer by introducing simple, daily behaviour changes to help us save energy, waste and water. By encouraging our store colleagues to do things like pulling down the fridge blinds at night it will help us achieve our first campaign goal of a three per cent reduction in electricity. And, the campaign isn’t all one sided – we’re also encouraging our colleagues to be energy efficient in their own homes by switching off lights at night, taking four-minute showers, and using LED energy-saving light bulbs.

Renewable energy is another area we focused on in 2013 and we made great headway with our installations of renewable heat technologies. We’ve been doing this because it makes commercial sense, supports job creation in the low-carbon energy sector, and is better for the environment. Over the past few years we’ve installed 14 ground source heat pumps, 169 natural CO2 refrigeration systems, 89 biomass boilers, and 129,000 photovoltaic solar panels on the roofs of our stores and distribution centres, alone generating enough power to run over 2,800 homes.

In October, we also received great recognition for our work to manage and report our carbon footprint. We made it into the 2013 CDP FTSE 350 Leadership Index and achieved the highest ranking of all UK-only retailers. The CDP is an important sustainable measure for the reporting and management of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies for the UK's largest public companies. It was a proud achievement but as you’d expect we’re already aiming for an even higher score for next year.

We also looked closely at another precious natural resource last year – water. In March, we achieved our target of a 50% relative reduction in our water use in our stores – a saving of almost one billion litres each year.  We also hosted the joint Sainsbury’s and Imperial College London annual lecture, which was all about water scarcity and the effects of climate change. This event was very well attended and it gave us an opportunity to share a new approach we’re taking at a couple of our new stores called Water Neutral. This is where the store’s water is provided through water efficient measures and infrastructure, as well as offsetting partnerships in the local community. It means that our stores get the water they need without impacting the local catchment area and our offsetting partners can achieve substantial savings on their water bills - a win-win for all including the environment.

And finally, we also opened our first Bee & Bees this year! These provide solitary bees with a Bee Hotel (nesting site) and Bee Café (bee friendly plants) to help them thrive. Our suppliers also got on board in 2013 with many opening their own Bee Hotels on their properties and we also gave our customers instructions to make their own solitary bee habitats. My Bee Hotels that I helped make last year are now full and I hope come late March that my little guests will ‘bee happy’ when they start appearing from their hotel rooms!

So looking back we have lots to be proud of in what we have achieved together with our customers and colleagues over the past year but there’s so much more to do in the year ahead and no chance of us going into hibernation for winter – we are already very busy in preparing and planning our sustainability and environmental challenges for 2014.

Happy New Year!


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About the author

  • Paul CreweI am responsible for significantly reducing Sainsbury's operational and embodied carbon footprint.