In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the Sainsbury's 'Sustainability Update 2019/20' for information on the company's environmental reporting. This update gave data for the 2019/20 financial year, and was therefore within the past two years for reporting.

It gave several 2020 targets including:

- 55% water reduction by 2020 against 2005/06 baseline
- 30% absolute carbon emission reduction by 2020 against 2005 baseline
- 50% reduction in own-brand packaging by 2020 against 2005/06 baseline

The company discussed reducing carbon emissions, water, food waste, and packaging, and discussed sustainable sourcing of in particular fish, timber and palm oil, as well as clothing. However it operated in many more sectors and there were many impacts it did not discuss such as fertilisers and pesticides. It did not discuss gases used in refrigeration. Ethical Consumer believed consideration of these topics to be necessary in order to demonstrate adequate understanding of its environmental impacts. None of the Sainsbury's sustainability material had been independently verified.

As the company had an environmental report dated within the last two years and with more than two future quantifiable reduction targets, but did not demonstrate adequate understanding of impacts and was not independently verified, it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Sainsbury's website, looking for information on what the company was doing to tackle climate change. Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:

For the company to discuss its areas of climate impact, and to discuss plausible ways it has cut them in the past, and ways that it will cut them in the future.
- in its Annual Report 2019 it stated it had "a bold ambition to be the Greenest Grocer by cutting carbon emissions from our heating, cooling, lighting and logistics".
- it stated " we have reduced energy use by four per cent year-on-year, through our colleague behavioural change programme"
- and "We achieve further emissions reductions by sourcing 18 per cent of our electricity from on-site renewables generation and renewable power purchase agreements"
-In its Sustainability Update 2019/20 it stated "Aerofoil equipped fridges are delivering carbon savings of almost 9,000 tCO2e per year" and also listed savings from lighting controls and LEDs.
The Sainsbury's Bank 2020 annual report stated that "investments include the Bank of England’s (BoE) reserve account, UK government securities (gilts or Treasury bills), multilateral development bank securities, government guaranteed agency securities, covered bonds and asset backed securities." It was not believed to have investments in fossil fuels.

For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding it’s climate actions, and to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place.
- it was not known to be directly involved in the above industries, although it did sell petrol.
- regarding relevant sector-specific climate policies, it stated in its CDP Climate Change Disclosure 2019 that "Since 2009, we have been implementing a programme to replace HFC refrigerants in stores with more environmentally friendly natural types such as CO2", "Due to the high global warming potential of R404-a, we have been particularly focussing this year on swapping out R404a to a lower GWP HFC gas, as well as increasing our efforts around leak detection."

For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company), and to go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).
- Sainsbury's reported its Scope 1&2 emissions in its annual report.
- It reported a figure for Scope 3 emissions of Purchased goods and services in its CDP Climate Change Disclosure 2019, of CO2e 12,546,000

For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.
- It stated in its Sustainability Update 2019/20 that "As part of our Net Zero by 2040 plan, we have committed to investing £1 billion over twenty years towards becoming a Net Zero business across our own operations by 2040, aligned to the highest ambitions of the Paris Climate Change Agreement."
- it also said it had signed up to setting a science-based target with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), but no target appeared to yet be in place.

The company adequately met the above requirements, but was a petrol retailer, therefore it received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for Climate Change.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)

In August 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Sainsbury's website for information on it phasing out HFCs. Neither the company's latest Annual Report (2020) nor Sainsbury's 'Sustainability Update 2019/20' mentioned HFCs.
However it stated in its CDP Climate Change Disclosure 2019 that "Since 2009, we have been implementing a programme to replace HFC refrigerants in stores with more environmentally friendly natural types such as CO2", "Due to the high global warming potential of R404-a, we have been particularly focussing this year on swapping out R404a to a lower GWP HFC gas, as well as increasing our efforts around leak detection."

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 human-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.

As such J Sainsbury lost half a mark under Climate Change.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)

In August 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Sainsbury's website, and found that the company retailed petrol. Retailing petrol was considered by Ethical Consumer to be operating in a high climate change impact sector.
This reference is now information only as it is taken into account in the new carbon management reference.

Reference:

Sainsbury's website (22 October 2019)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for the company's policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals such as PVC, BFR and phthalates. However no such policy could be found. A questionnaire response received in December 2019 stated, "We always look for ways to minimise our impact on the environment and are reviewing our options."

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 PVC, BFR and phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use.

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

Reference:

https://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/ (4 January 2019)

In October 2019, Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for information on the company's toxic chemical policy. No information was found.

The company was expected to have a toxic chemical policy, as it sold its own-brand clothes, household and personal care products.

Many of the processes involved in the manufacture of clothing, especially the production of synthetic fibres and dying of fabrics, release numerous hazardous substances that have a significant negative environmental impact. As the issue was considered to be an industry wide problem all clothing companies lose a whole mark under Pollution and Toxics unless: they used 100% sustainably sourced materials (i.e. organic, recycled or cotton sourced under the Better Cotton Initiative); or were listed as a leader in the Greenpeace Detox campaign; or had a turnover of less than £10.2 million and were providing an environmental alternative.

Ethical Consumer also expected the company to have a policy on the use of the hazardous chemicals parabens, triclosan and phthalates, used in household and personal care products.

Some forms or uses of these chemicals were banned or restricted in the EU or the USA. Triclosan is an antibacterial and a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer. They are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors. A strong policy on toxics would be no use of these chemicals or clear, dated targets for ending their use.

Sainsbury's appeared to have no policies on the use of toxic chemicals in household and personal care products or clothing, therefore it lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)

In January 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for information on the company's cotton sourcing policy. A number of cotton products on sale were not certified organic or Fairtrade. Sainsbury's was said to be a member of the Better Cotton Initiative.

A press release dated to August 2017 and titled 'Making sustainable cotton part of our fabric' stated: 'Sainsbury’s has joined other leading fashion brands in committing to using 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.' The company was said to have signed up to the Sustainable Cotton Communique´. A press release on the Fairtrade website stated that the communiqué defined 'sustainable' as, 'Organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and recycled cotton certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)'.

The Sainsbury's 2019 Values Update stated, "68% of our cotton certified to international sustainability standards, up from 61 per cent in 2017/18, working with the Better Cotton Initiative (2020 target: 100 per cent)"

Not all of Sainsbury's cotton was certified. It lost marks under the following categories: Workers Rights, Pollution & Toxics, Controversial Technology:

According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in August 2018, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton. Due to the high proportion of cotton likely to have come from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the prevalence of forced labour in its production, the company lost half a mark in the Workers Rights category.

The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company also lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Reference:

Values update 2019 (2 January 2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Sainsbury's website for the company's conflict minerals policy. Sainsbury's owned Home Retail Group which included Argos, which was a major retailer of electronic devices including own brand products. It had not published a conflict minerals policy. A questionnaire response from the company in December 2019 said that the company was "reviewing this".

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.

Due to the fact the company had no policy it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its policy on conflict minerals and lost a whole mark under the Habitats and Resources and Human Rights categories.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)

In October 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Forest 500 website, forest500.org, in search of J Sainsbury plc's ranking. Tropical rainforests cover 7% of the earth, but contain 50% of global biodiversity. Their ecosystems regulate global water systems and the climate, and they directly support the livelihoods of over a billion people. The social and economic benefits of these services are estimated to be in the trillions.
Over two thirds of tropical deforestation is driven by the production of a handful of commodities including; palm oil, soya, timber, paper and pulp, beef, and leather. These commodities are in products we use every day and are present in more than 50% of the packaged products in our supermarkets.
Forest 500, ‘the world’s first rainforest rating agency’, is a project of the Global Canopy Programme. In 2017, it published its fourth annual rating of the 500 powerbrokers that have large-scale influence over forest risk commodity supply chains. These include 250 companies, 150 investors and lenders, 50 jurisdictions, and 50 others.
The Forest 500 identifies the most influential companies, financial institutions, and governments in the race towards a deforestation-free global economy. It then ranks them according to the commitments and actions they have taken to ensure the commodities they produce or procure do not contribute to further loss of tropical forests.
Thus the Forest 500 seeks to hold companies, financial institutions, and governments accountable for their actions. The results and insights from the Forest 500 indicate shortcomings and gaps in powerbrokers’ commitments, highlighting where greater action is required to achieve overarching deforestation commitments.
The Forest 500 ranking and analysis was planned to be repeated annually until 2020, to help inform, enable and track progress towards deforestation free supply chains.
Each company was rated from 0-5, across four indicators, with 5 indicating a leading company:
Overall forest policy, Commodity policies, Operations and Reporting and transparency.
J Sainsbury was one of the 250 companies rated in the 2018 report.
It received an overall score of 2.
Its scores in each category were as follows:
- Commodity policies 2 out of 5
- Scope and Ambition 3 out of 5
- Reporting and implementation 2 out of 5
- Social considerations 2 out of 5

J Sainsbury therefore lost half a mark under Habitats & Resources.

Reference:

2017 ranking (20 December 2017)

In January 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website for information about the company's timber sourcing policy. A link to the company's CDP Forest Disclosure for 2017 was found on its Reports, Policies and Standards 2017 page. The company's 'Values Update 2019' was also viewed, as well as a questionnaire response recieved in December 2019.

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.

The Values Update 2019 stated, "97 per cent of timber in our products certified to international sustainability standards, improving on ... 95 per cent respectively in 2017/18 (2020 targets: 100 per cent)". It also stated that "This year we reviewed and refreshed the governance of our Sustainability Plan to align our approach across the Group".
The questionnaire response stated:
"Sainsbury’s - 100% of our own brand timber and paper products will be derived from sustainable sources by 2020
Argos and Habitat - 100% of our own brand timber and paper products will be derived from sustainable sources by 2023".
"Timber must not be harvested illegally in contravention of legislation in the country of harvest".
"The risk of illegal timber entering the supply chain is validated by our Timber Sourcing Assessment Process. This assessment process is carried out by a Sainsbury’s nominated 3rd party."

The CDP Forest Disclosure stated that the company had a 'sourcing hierarchy', giving preference to post-consumer recycled or FSC certified material, followed by PEFC certified material.

The company previously stated that it had been a member of the WWF's Global Forest Trade Network since 1995.

The company was considered to cover eight of the ten issues listed above and therefore received Ethical Consumer best rating for its timber sourcing.

Reference:

Questionnaire response (2 January 2020)

In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Sainsbury's corporate website for information about palm oil sourcing. The company's Sustainability Update 2019/20 stated that 99.1% of palm oil in own-brand products was sourced to an independent sustainability standard.
Ethical Consumer viewed the RSPO website. The last report submitted was dated 2018.

The company's ACOP provided figures for the total volume of crude palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives used. All were fully certified by RSPO mechanisms and 55% was from segregated sources. The company’s commitments applied to its global operations.

However, no substantial additional positive initiatives in its palm oil supply chain were reported and the company did not disclose its suppliers.

Overall the company scored a middle rating for its palm oil policy and practice.

Reference:

Sainsbury's corporate website (22 October 2019)