UK Supermarkets: Tesco & Waitrose2008Sustainability IssueA. Supermarket chains are faced with a global situation in which their activities are directly linked with environmental issues and climate change since the food chain, the primary article of sale by supermarkets, is a major contributor to carbon emissions. In fact, the food chain contributes one-fifth of the total carbon emission in the United Kingdom (Swan Network). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2001) forecasts that carbon dioxide concentration may increase from 380 ppm now to 540-970 ppm in 2010 because of human development, changes in ecosystem resulting from shifts in land and energy use patterns, industrialization and other economic and livelihood factors.
Analysis has proved that environmental footprint in industrialized societies have been much above the production processes and consumption requirements. In countries like the United Kingdom, the trend towards greater consumption and industrialization has a wide impact on the environment. For example, use of paper products has tripled over the past three decades and is expected to grow by another 50 percent by 2010, endangering forest cover of the world (World Resource Institute).
The type of food that the supermarket sells has a direct repercussion on the environment. In particular, meats and foods that are produced with high doses of fertilizers, typically the greater proportion of food sold by supermarkets, have high carbon content. Modern farming methods have had serious adverse environmental effects. It is anticipated that the world population will touch 7.5 billion by 2020, resulting in scarcity of land and water, changes in economic relationships and dietary patterns and rapid rise in urbanization (Massari). Competition for food production has already set in a process of soil erosion and scarcity of cropland, rangeland and marine fisheries.
Urbanization and industrialization have resulted in populations shifting from crop-based dietary patterns to meat-based ones, putting pressure on adequate food production. Increased animal farming has resulted in gas emissions, soil degradation and secondary impact through increased grain requirement for animal feedstock. Modern farming techniques, through overgrazing, result in serious soil erosion besides the methane and ammonia emission due the manure accumulation and pathogenic contamination. Increased animal farming has resulted in gas emissions, soil degradation and secondary impact through increased grain requirement for animal feedstock.
Modern farming techniques, through overgrazing, result in serious soil erosion besides the methane and ammonia emission due the manure accumulation and pathogenic contamination. Many regions of the world already face over-exploitation of natural resources, degradation of natural resources and unbalanced management of agro-ecosystems. B.Supermarkets like Tesco and Waitrose, therefore, has a great role to play in keeping the environment sustainable, by stocking products like organic foods, using recyclable packaging and lowering energy consumption. Tesco has committed to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing energy use by half by 2010 and that of carbon per case of product delivered by 30 percent by 2009 (Mesure, 2007).
According to Climate Brand Index, Tesco is perceived to rank top in environment sustainability (Retail Week, 2007). The company aims to reduce energy use by putting in use energy-efficient ovens, refrigerators and airconditioning and other equipment and efficient lighting, timers and motion detectors for switching off lighting when not needed. However, Tesco does not plan to stop selling carbon-intensive products (Ethical Corporation).