In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the ASDA website for an environmental report and viewed a number of pages under the title of "ASDA and the Environment".

As the pages linked to reports dated in 2017 and 2018 the information was considered to have been updated within the last two years.

The pages discussed sourcing, biodiversity, water, soil, food waste, packaging and energy use. It also published data on its carbon footprint. Ethical Consumer would expect to see a discussion of agricultural inputs such as pesticides and herbicides. ASDA was not considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of its main impacts.

The company had a number of 'long-term goals' including:
100% recyclable packaging by 2025
90% of our operational waste recycled or sent for anaerobic digestion
Our key commodities to be deforestation free by the end of 2020
50% reduction in food waste by 2030
None of these had baselines.

A page on the Asda Supplier website 'Our Sustainability Commitments' provided further targets:
- 30% energy intensity reduction by 2025, vs 2010 baseline
- 30% reduction in water use by 2020, vs 2015 baseline.

The information did not appear to have been independently verified.

Overall, ASDA received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

asda.com (2 December 2019)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed ASDA's website, and the store locator function, and found that the company retailed petrol. Retailing petrol was considered by Ethical Consumer to be operating in a high climate change impact sector. Therefore the company lost a whole mark in the Climate Change category.

Reference:

https://groceries.asda.com/ (21 January 2019)

In December 2019, Ethical Consumer searched the Asda website for information on the company's use of HFCs in refrigeration units.

The company stated: "The store has over 60 fridges and changes we made to the shelf edge technology not only reduces the energy usage but also helps to keep the chilled aisles warmer. Combining this with our environmentally friendly refrigeration redesign we use 40% less refrigeration gas, 11% less energy and reduce system maintenance by 50%." However, no suggestion that the company was phasing out HFCs was found. Previously it had stated that it would not be phasing out HFCs as it did not believe alternative systems to be reliable, believed them to have a greater risk of leakage and to be more energy intensive.

As the company was not committing to phasing out HFCs, nor installing HFC-free systems in new stores, it lost half a mark under Climate Change.

In October 2014 Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released it 6th and final report called Chilling Facts: Closing the doors on HFCs. The report provided research into the growing uptake of natural refrigerants among some of the world's leading retailers, reflecting a market shift towards climate-friendly refrigeration in the supermarket sector. According to the report hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the world's fastest growing source of man-made emissions, rising at an alarming rate of 10-15 per cent a year. EIA considered the adaptation of HFC/CO2 hybrid systems as a potentially useful stepping stone towards HFC-free systems, but not as an end point in themselves. The overall aim should be to phase out these gases in favour of climate-friendly alternatives. The report looked at the chemicals used in refrigerating both in-store fridges and freezers as well as the transportation of goods.
The report recommended that retailers should:
1. Commit to installing only HFC-free systems in all new stores and refurbishments, across entire estate, including their food transport systems and international operations;
2. Commit to a total phase-out by 2025 at the latest (the UK Government will ban the use HFCs with the GWP above 2500 from 2020).
3. Fit doors on all chiller and freezer units as standard
4. Remove any HFCs with Global Warming Potential above 2,500 in existing equipment as a matter of priority

Reference:

asda.com (2 December 2019)

In a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), 13 major fast food, retail, and food manufacturing companies in the USA were assessed to see if they could be doing more to prevent deforestation in South America. The report - Cattle, Cleared Forests, and Climate Change - was published in September 2016.

Tropical forests, notably those in South America, were being cleared for use in beef production. Deforestation driven by beef production was more than twice that of the next three largest drivers combined. South American ranchers cleared tropical forests, grasslands and woodlands to create pastures - releasing heat-trapping gases, destroying wildlife habitats, and encroaching on the homes of indigenous peoples.

The 13 companies all sourced beef from South America. This meant they could help stop deforestation by working with their suppliers to change practices, and ensure that beef production was not causing deforestation.

UCS found that nine of the 13 companies had no public policies or plans detailing how they intended to eliminate deforestation associated with their beef purchases, and that the policies and practices of the remaining four companies had major gaps - meaning they may have profited from selling “deforestation-risk beef”.

Companies were assessed against a number of criteria and given an overall mark out of 100. The report rated each company's deforestation-free beef policies and practices as “Strong”, “Limited” or “Very Limited” - in practice no company was assessed as “Strong”.

Wal-Mart was ranked first of the 13 companies with 52 out of 100. This score put it into the middle “Limited” band. As a result it lost half a mark under Climate Change and Habitats & Resources.

Reference:

Cattle, Cleared Forests, and Climate Change: Scoring Global Companies on their Deforestation-Free Be

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched Asda's website for a policy on toxic chemicals in its clothing and cosmetics products. The company produced a range of clothing and cosmetics.

A page titled 'Our new George sustainability strategy makes our clothes and homewares better for the planet' and dated to March 2019 was found, which stated that the company would "guarantee certified zero discharge of hazardous chemicals or waste from any of the fabric factories in our supply chain". However the strategy could not be found. No other policies were found. The company therefore received a worst rating in the Pollution and Toxics category and lost a whole mark.

In line with the asks of Greenpeace's Detox campaign, a toxics policy was deemed necessary for all garment companies as many of the process involved in the manufacture of clothing, especially the production of man made fibres and dying of fabrics, released numerous hazardous substances that had a significant negative environmental impact.

Ethical Consumer expected a chemicals in cosmetics products policy to include a commitment to phase out phthalates, parabens and triclosan. A questionnaire response from ASDA received in July 2019 stated "We have a number of policies covering this product type, specifically biocidal products policy, cosmetic products policy, fragrance policy and finally our REACH policy." However, these policies were not provided and could not be found.

Reference:

https://sustainability.asda.com (21 January 2019)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Asda website for the company's policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals such as BFRs and PVC and/or phthalates.

A toxics policy was deemed necessary for all electronics companies, as these substances were widely used by electronics companies and had a significant negative environmental impact when released after disposal.
A strong policy on toxics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as BFRs and PVC and/or phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use.

Several electronic products from the George and George Home brand (owned by Asda) were found on the company's retail website.

A questionnaire response received from Asda in July 2019 stated "We have a REACH policy in place and supplier declarations for both REACH & POP." No further information could be found on these.

As the company had no publicly available policies on the use of toxic chemicals in electronics it lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

https://sustainability.asda.com (21 January 2019)

In January 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed Indian company Flipkart's website (81% owned by Wal-Mart) for policies relating to its operations.
The company was expected by Ethical Consumer to have an Environmental Report and Supply Chain Management policy. No documents relating to its environmental impacts or workers' rights within its supply chain could be found.
Due to its being involved in retailing own branded electronic products, such as televisions branded 'MarQ by Flipkart', it was also expected to have policies which covered toxic chemicals usage and conflict minerals. No policies addressing these issues could be found.
The company was therefore lost a whole mark under Environmental Reporting, Habitats & Resources and Human Rights (for conflict minerals), Pollution & Toxics, and Supply Chain Management.

Reference:

www.flipkart.com (1 June 2018)

In December 2019, Ethical Consumer searched Wal-Mart's website for a Timber Sourcing Policy.
Despite having a commitment to zero net deforestation by 2020 as part of its participation in the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the company had no published timber sourcing policy. The company retailed numerous products made from timber and timber derived products.
Discussing the four key commodities linked to deforestation, palm oil, pulp and paper, beef, and soy, it stated, "we recognize that additional production types also contribute to deforestation such as other food types, lumber and forest-based fabrics. We encourage our suppliers of these types of products to work to source products produced with zero net deforestation as well. We ask suppliers to avoid ancient and endangered forests, to encourage conservation solutions, and to increase recycled content."
Ethical Consumer's timber sourcing ranking required companies scoring a 'best' to cover six of the below issues:
1. Having a timber sourcing policy that covers all timber and timber-derived products
2. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources and...
3. ...a discussion on how a company ensures/ implements this
4. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources
5. a discussion of a good minimum standard
6. preference given to certified sources
7. a discussion about tropical hardwoods (THW) and the percentage of THW sourced that are FSC certified
8. involvement with a multi-stakeholder initiative or bridging programme such as the World Wildlife Fund- Global Forest Trade Network
9. use of reclaimed or recycled wood/ paper
10. a high total percentage (50%+) of FSC certified timber sourced by the company.
Wal-Mart stores received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its timber sourcing policy as it did not statisfy six criteria, and lost a full mark under Habitats & Resources.

Reference:

https://www.walmart.com (21 January 2019)

In December 2019, Ethical Consumer searched the Walmart Inc website for information on the company's approach to conflict minerals. Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.
Ethical Consumer expected all companies manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Such a policy would articulate the company's commitment to conflict-free sourcing of 3TG minerals and a commitment to continue ensuring due diligence on the issue. The policy should also state that it intended to continue sourcing from the DRC region in order to avoid an embargo and that the company had membership of, or gave financial support to, organisations developing the conflict-free industry in the region.
The company was found to be a member of the Responsible Mineral Initiative. Its Conflict Mineral Policy stated that it had “engaged third party firms with specialized experience in various aspects of conflict minerals to assist Walmart in the development and implementation of our program, which includes due diligence activities consistent with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines.”
While it did state that it conducted due diligence it did not explicitly state that it was committed to conflict-free sourcing or continuing to source from the DRC region.
Wal-Mart was said to expect its product suppliers to actively support Walmart’s conflict minerals compliance efforts by:
- “adopting responsible mineral sourcing policies in dealing with their supply chains that are consistent with this [Walmart's] policy and the OECD guidance,
- supplying products to Walmart that do not contain 3TG minerals that have been sourced under circumstances that contribute to or support human rights violations in the DRC, and
- providing evidence to support their representations as to the conflict minerals status of their products upon request.”
No information was provided as to whether the expectations placed on suppliers were included in supplier contracts. Details of the steps the company would take to identify, assess, mitigate and respond to risks within its supply chain were not supplied, and the company did not appear to be a member of a multi-stakeholder initiative on conflict minerals. The company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its Conflict Minerals Policy and lost a whole mark under Habitats & Resources and Human Rights.

Reference:

corporate.walmart.com (2 December 2019)

In April 2018, Ethical Consumer viewed 'Demand the Supply: Ranking Consumer Electronics and Jewelry Retail Companies on their Efforts to Develop Conflict-Free Minerals Supply Chains from Congo', which had been published by the Enough Project in November 2017. The report had ranked 20 electronics and jewelry retail companies based on four core categories:
1) Conducting Due Diligence and Reporting
2) Developing a Conflict-Free Minerals Trade and Sourcing Conflict-Free Minerals from Congo, Particularly Gold
3) Supporting and Improving Livelihoods for Artisanal Mining Communities in Eastern Congo
4) Conflict-free Mineral Advocacy

Wal-Mart received an extremely poor score of 2.5 out of a possible 120 (with the highest scoring retailer receiving 114 and the highest scoring jewellry retailer receiving 66.5). The company therefore received the second lowest ranking in the report. It lost a full mark under both Habitats & Resources and Human Rights.

Reference:

2017 Conflict Mineral Company Ranking (16 November 2017)

In July 2019, Asda sent Ethical Consumer a questionnaire response which included information about it's palm oil policies and practices. In addition, the palm oil page of the Asda sustainability website was viewed in January 2020.

These stated that all 16,706 tonnes of palm oil used in Asda products was sustainable palm oil from the RSPO scheme. Of this 8,805 tonnes came directly from segregated sources, 4,358 came from mass balance and 3,542 tonnes was covered by Book and Claim (GreenPalm) certificates. These figures included crude palm oil, palm kernal oil and palm oil derivatives.

Asda was part of the Wal-Mart corporate group, which was a member of the RSPO. It had submitted no figures for 2017 but in 2016 its figures showed that all palm ingredients used were RSPO certified. However, more than half were certified by Book and Claim, the lowest level of certification.

Due to the fact that the company did not take additional best practice measures, such as disclosing its suppliers or working with its supply chain to improve it, and its standards were not company wide, Asda received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for palm oil sourcing and policy and lost half a mark in the Palm Oil category.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer Questionnaire (July 2019)