Today is ‘World Environment Day’. Established in 1972 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and celebrated in over 100 countries, this annual event encourages worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.
2020’s World Environment Day coincides with Coronavirus; a pandemic which has forced half the world into lockdown. Yet, despite the unprecedented challenges, Covid-19 seems to have focused the mind, united people, and cultivated a feeling of global connectedness like never before. As a result, the impact that our individual behaviours can have on people, communities and economies across oceans and continents has never been clearer.
Covid-19 has led to less cars on the road and planes in the sky. There’s been a record 5% annual drop in carbon emissions, the skies are clearing of air pollution, wildlife is returning to newly clear waters and crude oil prices are plunging… a scenario many would have thought impossible for World Environment Day 2020.
However, the expected cut in emissions is still less than the 7.6% reduction scientists say is needed every year this decade to avoid disastrous climate impacts for much of the world. Clearly lifting the threat of the current pandemic is the immediate priority, but we cannot lose sight of the climate change crisis. The size, urgency and threat of environmental issues facing us is beyond the ability of any single organisation or government to solve. We need to work together. When the global economy restarts, and lockdown restrictions are lifted, we all have a choice to make: go back to the world as it was before or make it a better one.
Do we grab the positives of environmental renewal, purity of air and water and acceptance we don’t need to use all the resources we thought did? And so, invest only in cleaner technologies and practices moving forward? Or will the economic realities of an expected global recession, force us to cut spending on net zero levers and return to a world of consumption powered by fossil fuels?
The reality is that the next 10 years of carbon management are absolutely critical. What we do now will be the difference between success and failure. Since 1844, it’s been our point of difference to pioneer better ways of doing business and create ‘value’ that our customers, colleagues and communities can trust. We have a long history of taking the lead on the issues that matter most, from our many ‘Fairtrade firsts’ to campaigning for social justice. We believe in co-operating for a fairer world. A fairer world is one where more people can thrive now and for generations to come. A key aspect of that aspiration is doing our fair share, meeting our sustainability goals, and recognising the need to take action on climate change.
Food supply chains are responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why it’s really important that we co-operate with suppliers and other external business partners to reduce our operational carbon footprint. That’s why, we have committed to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets to limit global warming to no more than 1.5c of warming, the best threshold recommended by experts across the world:
1. Co-op will reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025
2. Co-op will reduce product-related greenhouse gas emissions by 11% by 2025
Co-op has always used its buying power to get the best possible value whilst promoting ethical and sustainable practices. It’s what we do. So, it’s no surprise we do this with our energy too. Co-op Power has been around since 2003. Historically we bought 100% renewable energy on behalf of our Food and Funeral care businesses. As we’ve grown, the size of our buying power has given us the leverage to pass savings onto other businesses, while reducing their carbon footprint and building closer partnerships with them. As part of our commitment to zero carbon, we’ve also helped to build the UK’s renewable energy capacity by investing in five new wind farms.
Today, our unique energy buying group consists of over 40 different business members and we’ve helped them save over £100 million in energy costs alone. By pooling our resources and working together, we can do a whole lot more, get even better value and make an even bigger difference to the planet. The benefits for businesses are clear: save energy, save money, save time, save hassle, save the planet. In these extraordinary times, we have proved we can manage without many things, but we can’t manage without energy. Covid-19 has highlighted how much we rely on electricity, gas and water in our everyday lives. These vital resources, which are often taken for granted, supply us with many benefits: heat, food, water, transport, energy, entertainment and communication to name a few.
From the use of smartphones and TVs for entertainment, the internet for information and learning, and social media, teams and zoom for connecting people, to the lighting, heating and cooling systems we use in our homes, the machinery and operating systems in our factories, schools, online retail, funeral care, and hospitals. All of this is possible because of electricity. The world of the future will need a lot of energy, but it will also need to stop adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The next decade will see a fundamental change in the way energy is generated and consumed. Businesses, government and society at large need to work together to combat climate change and invest in a future powered by clean renewable energy. Big or small, we all have a role to play in creating a sustainable future, protecting our planet and the people in it, and rebuilding a more vibrant, resilient and green economy.