The Uk's largest retailer Tesco reaches 500 electric van landmark

Push to net-zero: UK’s largest retailer Tesco has GHG targets validated by SBTi

The UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, has become one of first companies globally to set validated science-based targets on all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The supermarket chain follows in the footsteps of the John Lewis Partnership, which made a similar announcement in June.


  • Globally validated science-based targets on all GHG emissions, including those originating from forests, land and agriculture (known as FLAG) emissions.
  • The targets are validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)
  • Tesco has targeted 55% emissions reduction target for energy and industrial Scope 3 emissions by 2032
  • The UK’s largest retailer is aiming for 39% emissions reduction target for Scope 3 FLAG emissions by 2032
  • Tesco’s ambitions include stretching interim commitments to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions from its own operations by 85% by 2030 from a 2015 baseline year.

What it all means

The validated targets mean Tesco will now work towards its commitment to reach net zero by 2050, which is in line with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius.

Activity has been split into the following six areas: improve products; decarbonise transport; reduce store emissions; support sustainable consumption; eliminate waste; and protect nature.

As part of the strategy, the retailer promised it will scale up use of deforestation-free feed sources; further roll-out of agricultural innovations such as low carbon fertiliser; and carry on work it has been doing to decarbonise its store estate and transport networks.

In stores and distribution facilities, Tesco said it will also be improving refrigeration efficiency and reducing refrigerant emissions by installing aerofoil technology, and retrofitting existing systems with more environmentally-friendly refrigerant gasses.

What Tesco has achieved to date

  • Tesco says it has adopted 100% renewable electricity across the group
  • The retailer says in the 2022/23 financial year it achieved an absolute emissions reduction in its own operations of 55% against a 2015 baseline
  • The supermarket chain is decarbonising its home delivery fleet, and has committed to all home delivery vans being fully electric by 2030
  • Tesco introduced the commercial electric HGVs in 2021, with three now in operation
  • Alongside PodPoint, the retailer has rolled out electric vehicle charging points on its sites across the UK, with 2,400 now in operation
  • Tesco also issued more than £1 billion in sustainability-linked bonds, linked to achievement of its Scope 1 and 2 emission reduction targets
  • The business is also in the process of supporting suppliers to have net zero plans in place by the end of 2023.

What’s everyone saying about it?

Ken Murphy, Tesco Group CEO…

“With the effects of climate change now upon us, we’re absolutely committed to achieving our target of net zero by 2050,” said Murphy.

“It will require us to transform the way we run our business, from how we produce our products in partnership with our suppliers, how we run our stores and transport network, and how we encourage our customers to make healthy and sustainable choices.”

He added that the verified targets now “provide us with a clear roadmap of action over the next ten years and beyond”.

Tanya Steele, CEO of environmental group WWF…

“The effects of climate change and nature loss are already being felt around the world, and the food system is a key driver of these twin threats,” Steele explained.

“We cannot safeguard our future and limit warming to 1.5 degrees without urgently transforming the way we produce and consume food, from ensuring deforestation-free supply chains to tackling overconsumption of meat and dairy. We welcome Tesco’s important step forward in setting SBTi-validated emission targets; this must now be matched by action to drive down emissions across their entire value chain.”

She added: “We are calling on all UK food retailers to match this ambition by setting science-based climate targets across their value chains, and acting to put our food system on a sustainable footing, from farm to fork.”

Mike Barry, ex-Marks & Spencer (M&S) Plan A boss and now environmental consultant…

“My challenge – push for Net Zero by 2040,” he wrote on LinkedIn, as he welcomed Tesco’s announcement and highlighted who he thinks are leading retailers in this space.

“My challenge to all other retailers globally [is to] match this and the work done by Ahold Delhaize, John Lewis/Waitrose, [and] M&S.”

Anna Turrell, Decathlon chief sustainability officer and, until recently, Tesco sustainability director…

“This was such a long process but I’m so proud of all the Tesco team involved in making this happen,” she wrote on LinkedIn.

“Particularly massive shout-out to [climate change manager – supply chain] Rodrigo Barrios, [head of environment] Bryony Waugh, [climate change specialist] Hannah Marsh, [and lead nature & forests manager] Alice Ritchie.”

The future

After Turrell’s departure in June, the UK’s largest retailer is currently on the hunt for a new sustainability director. Tesco is currently marketing for Turrell’s replacement, which is one of the biggest jobs in retail sustainability.

Read more about the SBTi and what it can help businesses achieve

[Image credit: Tesco]

[Article updated 09:10 on 23 August 2023]

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