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Are Sainsbury’s ready for this challenge?

In response to Sainsbury’s announcement that it aims to become carbon neutral by 2040, Dr Adolf Acquaye, Reader in Sustainability at Kent Business School said:

The world is facing an environmental sustainability crisis mainly due to the continuing loss of natural resources and because of the negative impacts such as carbon emissions on the ecosystem. It is therefore refreshing that Sainsbury’s, a major firm in the retail space, has made commitments backed by huge financial outlay to cut emissions to zero by 2040. This is commendable and, as the transition to a greener global economy requires collective efforts, other companies should follow suit. However, many questions still need answering.

‘A wide range of studies have uncovered that emissions embodied in products, as well as the many complex activities in the extended supply chain, constitute a significant part of a company’s total emissions. Mitigating against direct emissions alone through measures such as energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration as reported by Sainsbury’s, are positive actions but do not constitute even the tip of the iceberg of the total emissions once the impact of their global supply chains are taken into account.

‘Mike Coupe, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, stated that they will ensure suppliers are “playing their part”. What does this really mean? This may imply a complete re-design of their supply chains, a situation which would increase risks and cause supply chain disruptions. Are Sainsbury’s ready for this challenge?

‘As Sainsbury’s has demonstrated, major commitments from companies can be achieved, but measures to mitigate against supply chain emissions should be viewed and executed holistically.’

Dr Adolf Acquaye is Reader in Sustainability and Head of Ethics at Kent Business School. Dr Acquaye is widely published on the subject of Sustainability within International Business, Corporate Social Responsibility and Green Supply Chain Management.

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