In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the ASDA website for an environmental report and viewed a number of web pages and reports under the title of "Better Planet".

As the pages linked to reports dated in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the information was considered to have been updated within the last two years.

The pages discussed sourcing, biodiversity, water, soil, food waste, packaging, palm oil, timber energy use, pesticides and soil management. It also published data on its carbon footprint. ASDA was considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of its main impacts.

The following dated and quantified future targets were found:
Asda had a target to reduce scope 1 & 2 emissions by 50% by 2025 from the 2015 baseline.
100% recyclable packaging by 2025
The information reported 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: (2020)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Asda Group’s website, looking for information on what the company was doing to reduce its climate change impact. Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:

1 a) For the company to show that it has a reasonable understanding of its areas of climate impact and how to ameliorate them, and appears to be taking steps to do so

Asda Group’s website included a blog post entitled “Asda's commitments to tackle climate change”, which gave details of steps the company was taking to address its climate impact including energy saving measures including installing more efficient refrigerant and lighting systems in its stores

1 b) For the company to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place

An important climate policy for the supermarket sector is phasing out HFC refrigerants. No statement was found committing Asda Group to phasing out HFCs.

1 c) 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 its climate actions.

Asda was found to be a retailer of petrol, and therefore was considered to be involved in a particularly damaging industry.

2) For the company to report its scope 1&2 emissions annually

A document entitled Asda’s Carbon Footprint 2018 was downloaded from the company’s website. This contained greenhouse gas emissions data for that year. The document did not define emissions categories by scope, but as it implied that it included “energy usage (mainly electricity), transportation of goods and refrigerant gas usage; the remaining is distributed over business travel, water and waste”, it was accepted as covering scopes 1 and 2 (and some which would be categorised as scope 3).

3) For the company to report scope 3 emissions, covering at least tier one suppliers (all greenhouse gases, which means reporting in CO2e, not just CO2).

Scope 3 emissions data covering supply chain emissions was not found

4) 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.

Asda had a target to reduce scope 1 & 2 emissions by 50% by 2025 from the 2015 baseline. This equated to a cut of 5% per year on average.

Overall, Asda Group received Ethical Consumer’s Worst rating for carbon management and reporting and lost a full mark under the Climate Change category.

Reference: (2020)

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.


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

The campaign group Feedback published a report in June 2018 entitled The food waste scorecard: an assessment of supermarket action to address food waste. The report ranked UK supermarkets based on publicly available information, mainly from their websites or news articles, to assess their efforts to tackle food waste in the industry.

The report measured supermarkets against the food use hierarchy. Feedback established key indicators for each facet of the food use hierarchy, which include reducing and preventing surplus food as a priority, followed by redistributing surplus food, recycling surplus food and finally the proper disposal of food waste. Supermarkets scored a point for each of the 32 key indicators successfully implemented.

Asda scored a D rating overall and ranked joint 4th out of 10 supermarkets assessed in the report, along with Lidl and Morrisons.

On reducing and preventing surplus food, Asda was found to have implemented 5 of the 20 key indicators. Asda was commended in the report for recognising its own role in helping people reduce food waste. Asda developed an initiative with the University of Leeds to help customers save money by cutting down on their shopping.

The second step in the food use hierarchy is redistribution, which involves surplus food that is fit for human consumption being sent to charities and organisations that redistribute food. Asda was found to have implemented 3 of the 4 key indicators and scored 2 out of 3 available points for the quantity of food redistributed, which totalled 1,333 tonnes based on data available at the time of publication. Asda announced in 2018 that it would donate £20 million to FareShare and the Trussell Trust to the value of £15 million, in order to make the redistribution financially attractive to retailers.

The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. Asda did not score any points under this criteria and was not found to be engaging in this activity.

The final step in the food use hierarchy is the disposal of inedible food waste. Most UK supermarkets have a zero waste to landfill commitment. Instead, large quantities of food suitable for human consumption is being sent to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) to be converted into energy. According to the Feedback report, AD should only be used to process food waste which is unsuitable for redistribution or animal feed. Asda was recognised for fulfilling 1 of the 3 key indicators under the disposal criteria due to its zero waste to landfill commitment.

The report stated, "Producing our food costs our planet dearly, with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries doubling over the past 50 years (FAO 2014) to nearly 20% of emissions resulting from human activity. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted (FAO 2011)". As Asda scored well in this report, this reference is for information only.


Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

In November 2020 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.

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.

The company's supplier website stated that it would "guarantee certified zero discharge of hazardous chemicals or waste" by 2025.

However, no further details were found. The company therefore received a worst rating in the Pollution and Toxics category and lost a whole mark.

Ethical Consumer expected a policy on chemicals in cosmetics 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. The company therefore also received a worst rating for its toxics policy regarding cosmetics.

Reference: (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: (1 June 2018)

In 2020 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Pesticide Action Network UK and Solidaridad published an updated version of their 2017 report regarding the cotton sector and its sustainability.

Their overall objective was once again to highlight progress achieved and opportunities for improvement that would accelerate transformation of the cotton market towards sustainability.

Improvements since the 2017 ranking were said to be encouraging and to suggest that more companies were taking their responsibility to drive sustainability in the sector. Positive outcomes included:

43 companies obtaining more points than in 2017 including 24 companies moving up from one performance category to the next;
An increase in the number of companies in the categories Leading the Way (+6) and Well on Their Way (+5)
An increased overall uptake of more sustainable cotton.
Companies were ranked according to three criteria: policy, uptake and traceability. Walmart, Inc. was one of the companies rated in the 2020 report. It scored 10.3 out of 100 points, up from 0 in 2017. The company was a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), and was deemed to be “Starting the Journey”.

Its scores in each of the categories were as follows:
Policy: 10.3/20.
Uptake: 0/55
Traceability: 0/25

All companies mentioned except those 'Leading the Way' lost half a mark under Pollution and Toxics.


Sustainable Cotton Ranking (2020)

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Walmart'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.
Walmart 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: (21 January 2019)

In November 2020, 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.”

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.”

While it did state that it conducted due diligence it did not explicitly state that it was committed to continuing to source from the DRC region.

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. As the company did not commit to continued sourcing from the DRC region, it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its Conflict Minerals Policy and lost a whole mark under Habitats & Resources and Human Rights.

Reference: (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.


2017 Conflict Mineral Company Ranking (16 November 2017)

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Asda’s website for information about its palm oil policies and practices.

Asda stated “All of the palm oil in our products is sourced to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards and has been since 2015.”

It was not stated whether this extended to palm kernel oil and derivatives. Walmart's (the company's UHC) 2018 Annual Communication of Progress to RSPO was also viewed, which offered no further clarification on this.

Asda reported that “in 2019 Asda used 15,568 tonnes of sustainable palm oil from the RSPO scheme. Of this:

8,642 tonnes comes directly from segregated sources
4,560 comes from mass balance sources
2,362 tonnes is covered by PalmTrase certificates.”

This proportion of palm oil said to be sourced from segregated sources equated to roughly 55%.

The company picked up additional marks for disclosing volumes and having a group wide commitment. It was not conducting any additional positive initiatives regarded as significant and it did not disclose its suppliers. No further information was given on these areas from Walmart's 2018 ACOP. It received Ethical Consumer's Worst rating for its palm oil policy and practice and lost a full mark under Palm Oil.

Reference: (2020)