B&Q sets target for 90% carbon reduction by 2023

B&Q is aspiring to become a zero-carbon business as part of a new ‘one planet living’ strategy developed with sustainability advisers BioRegional. But there is considerable uncertainty over measures to meet the target.

Home improvement retailer B&Q has set an ambitious target to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 90% by 2023 compared to levels in 2006/07. Measures to reduce waste, water use and other impacts are also being developed.1

The CO2 reduction target is the centrepiece of B&Q’s plans to become a ‘one planet living business’ - a concept developed by environmental group WWF and sustainability adviser BioRegional to reduce resource consumption and pollution to within environmental limits (ENDS Report 387, p 8 ).

The target is based on data from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which suggests that the UK must achieve a cumulative 9% annual reduction in CO2 emissions in 2012-2032, equating to a total emissions reduction of almost 90% by 2030, to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. B&Q has committed to achieving the target earlier - within just 15 years - in an attempt to demonstrate leadership on preventing climate change.

B&Q’s one planet living project manager Jonathan Couper said that although the company had a long track record of action on issues such as certified sustainable timber, peat-free compost and banning patio-heaters, it needed to create a more comprehensive strategy in partnership with a credible external organisation such as BioRegional. The move has also been influenced by headline-grabbing green initiatives launched by retailers Marks and Spencer and Tesco (CHECK ENDS Reports 384, pp 5-6  and 376, p 4 ).

The CO2 reduction target covers emissions from its UK operations including energy use in its 325 stores and its offices, freight transport and business travel, as well as the greenhouse gas methane from landfilled waste. In 2006/07, CO2 emissions from these sources were approximately 300,000 tonnes.

Electricity and gas for in-store lighting and heating accounts for 68% of B&Q’s emissions. B&Q aims to make all its new stores zero-carbon by 2012, with existing ones following suit by 2023.

In January, B&Q will open a store in New Malden, Surrey, that has a reduced environmental impact as a result of its two-kilowatt wind turbine, photovoltaic panels, geothermal heating, rainwater harvesting system and a green roof.

Hayley Bell, sustainable business manager at BioRegional, said that how B&Q will achieve the target had yet to be decided: "It hasn’t got all the answers yet - no one has - but we are going to try and get there."

Ms Bell said developing sources of renewable energy would be an important part of the strategy. However, a feasibility study has shown that few B&Q sites are suitable for on-site wind power. One is B&Q’s distribution centre in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, where renewable power company Ecotricity is constructing a two-megawatt wind turbine. BioRegional has initiated discussions with a renewable energy supplier about developing dedicated off-site wind farms for B&Q.

However, under recently revised government guidelines B&Q will not be able to claim emissions reductions from the Worksop wind turbine because Ecotricity will not retire the Renewable Obligation Certificates created by the project. B&Q is also not able to use renewable electricity bought through ‘green tariffs’ to meet the target for the same reason (ENDS Report 402, p 4 ).

The strategy also commits B&Q to cutting emissions from freight transport and business travel by 50% by 2023. If sufficient savings cannot be made through building energy use, further cuts in transport emissions will be needed to achieve the target. BioRegional and B&Q are considering biomass as an alternative to gas heating at its stores, but firm plans have yet to be agreed. The strategy says: "Where these final cuts are made… will be worked out over the coming years."

Ms Bell said that "a lot of the low-hanging fruit has already been taken" to reduce emissions from freight transport, driven by the need to reduce costs. However, further improvements could be made by reducing the amount of empty-running by lorries returning to distribution centres from store deliveries. Instead, vehicles could visit nearby suppliers to transport goods to distribution centres instead of the suppliers doing it. But although this may help reduce emissions overall, the savings are made by the suppliers, rather than B&Q.

B&Q has set a target to recycle 90% of its waste by 2012. The company is testing the replacement of general waste skips with recycling containers at one of its stores. B&Q is also gathering data on water consumption at stores with garden centres to inform future action. It is committed to fitting rainwater harvesting systems to irrigate garden centres at its new stores.

B&Q has also launched a range of ‘one planet home’ products such as insulation, water butts and compost containers, which could reduce customers’ ecological footprints by as much as 10%. This is a significant contribution towards the two-thirds reduction needed for the average UK citizen to live within the planet’s means, according to BioRegional.

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