<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Reducing the carbon footprint of shops

Shopping trolleys

Credit: Clipart

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Can shops help reduce climate change? And if they don't, what impact does it have on their business?

Think about it. Tell a shopper that it doesn't really matter how you ship and package a loaf of bread or carton of milk, because cars and airplanes are the ones doing the damage, not you, and chances are you will lose that customer. The fact is that customers now, particularly in the 20-30 year age bracket, expect businesses, and that includes shops, to be responsible for the environment.

So far, Australian supermarket giants have done very little about the environment. That's easy to understand. There is only two of them - Coles and Woolworths - and they have a captive market, which means they can pretty much do whatever they want.

All of that is set to change with the world's biggest retailers moving to reduce their carbon footprint. The world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart in the United States, is leading the way, announcing that it plans to have its suppliers calculating the full environmental costs of making their products.

Wal-Mart will then stick that on a label that will appear along with the price of the product. This will allow consumers to make more informed choices about the products they buy: they can choose products with the lowest possible price, or they can pay a little more for a product with a smaller carbon footprint.

Similarly, British retail giant Tesco has announced it plans to display the full carbon footprint of milk sold at it stores.

In Britain, the Climate Change Act passed in 2008 commits successive governments to delivering against the target of cutting emissions 80 per cent by 2050. British companies, including retailers, need to put in steps to deliver a 4 per cent annual reduction in carbon emissions if they want to comply with the Act.

The impact of retailers is enormous. Retailers will force their suppliers to clean up their environmental performance so environmental management will flow through the system. In other words, if retailers reduce their carbon footprint, it will affect everyone. Suppliers will have to reduce their footprint and that will in turn reduce the overall rate of emissions.

What should Australian retailers be doing?