In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Sainsbury's website for the company's environmental policy or report.

An environmental policy dated within two years was deemed necessary to report on a company's environmental performance. The report 'Sainsbury’s Sustainability Update 2019/20' was viewed.

A strong policy would include demonstration by the company that it had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts.
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. Though pesticides were not mentioned in the sustainability report they were discussed on the company website, stating that it encouraged groweers to minimise the use of pesticides. However it was not considered to have a reasonable understanding of its main impacts because it received our worst rating for Pollution and Toxics.

A strong policy would include two future, quantified environmental targets. Sainsbury's had targets including:
- 100% of stores would be lit by LED by the end of 2022.
- It would switch all fridges to new (and more energy efficient) carbon dioxide (CO2) technology by 2030.

Ethical Consumer expected its environmental data independently verified. No evidence of external verification was identified.

Due to how the data was not externally verified and it received a worst under the Pollution & Toxics rating Sainsbury's could not receive a best rating and as such it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the website of J Sainsbury plc, looking for information on what the company was doing to tackle climate change. A questionnaire received from the company in March 2021 was also viewed.

If a company met all required criteria it would receive a best rating. If it met parts 1&2 (impacts and annual reporting CO2e) it would receive a middle rating. Otherwise it would receive a worst rating.

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.

The company stated "We’ve reduced our operational carbon emissions by 42% absolute and 60% relative since 2005/06." It stated "Sainsbury’s became the first UK supermarket to switch to lithium-ion pallet trucks. Initially purchasing 1,200 trucks, which has the potential to save enough energy to power 700 average sized UK homes for 12 month". It stated that 100% of stores would be lit by LED by the end of 2022. It stated that it would switch all fridges to new (and more energy efficient) carbon dioxide (CO2) technology by 2030.

- 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.

Sainsbury's did not appear to be heavily involved in particularly damaging projects, though it did sell petrol.

The company used HFC refigerants, however it made the following statement in its 2020 CPD report 'Since 2009, we have been implementing an annual refrigeration replacement programme, which sees us investing heavily in exchanging HFC refrigeration systems with more efficient or environmentally friendly replacements that operate using natural refrigerants such as CO2. We also made a pledge to switch all our fridges to new (and more energy efficient) carbon dioxide (CO2) technology by 2030, which is well underway; with 29 stores converted in the last year to give a total of 307 to date.'

- For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company).

Sainsbury's listed its Scope 1 and 2 emissions in its annual report.

- To go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products). 0% of emissions were calculated using data obtained from suppliers or value chain partners, however the methodology appeared to draw from the Carbon Trust research and the approach was outlined, for example it stated "Where an emissions factor was not available, a number of averages for product groups were calculated (e.g. average meat).

Sainsbury's went some way towards reporting scope 3 emissions. It listed 14967215 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions from purchased goods and services.

- 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.

The company's annual report and financial statements 2020 stated "We engaged with our suppliers on our Net Zero by 2040 plan. Our management team wrote to suppliers asking them to set their own net zero targets and to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change agreement."

It confirmed that it did not participate in offsetting.

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

Reference:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

In February 2021 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' explicitly mentioned HFCs.

However it stated in its CDP Climate Change Disclosure 2020 that "Since 2009, we have been implementing an annual refrigeration replacement programme, which sees us investing heavily in exchanging HFC refrigeration systems with more efficient or environmentally friendly replacements that operate using natural refrigerants such as CO2. We also made a pledge to switch all our fridges to new (and more energy efficient) carbon dioxide (CO2) technology by 2030, which is well underway; with 29 stores converted in the last year to give a total of 307 to date. When complete, this will help to reduce our carbon footprint by more than a third".

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:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed an aricle titled 'Brazil: Global Witness report on beef traders uncovers links to deforestation, flawed audits & complicity of banks & companies' dated 2 December 2020 on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website.

This stated "Fresh evidence shows that major Brazilian meat traders JBS, Marfrig and Minerva are failing to remove vast swathes of deforested Amazon land from their supply chains, which flawed audits by DNV-GL and Grant Thornton did not identify."

It continued "Well-known high street stores and brands, like Burger King, Sainsbury’s, Subway, McDonalds, Walmart, Carrefour, and Nestlé are [...]recent customers of theirs."

The company lost half a mark under Habitats and Resources.

Reference:

Brazil: Global Witness report on beef traders uncovers links to deforestation, flawed audits & compl

In March 2021 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:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's 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.

Ethical Consumer searched the Sainsbury's website and found a number of products made with PVC. This material had been criticised by environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace for its negative environmental impact in production, use and disposal.

The company's questionnaire stated "We do not currently have a policy position on the use of PVC available on our website, however we ensure that any products containing PVC placed on the market comply with relevant UK and EU requirements."

"We are fully aware of the issues associated with Brominated Flame Retardants and are currently phasing them out, in line with UK & EU legislation."

As the company had only committed to phasing out BFRs it lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

In February Ethical Consumer searched the Argos website and found the company was retailing a number of products containing PVC. The company also failed to have a policy to phase out the use of toxic chemicals in its supply chain.

PVC had been criticised by environmental campaigners for its negative environmental impact in production, use and disposal. The manufacture and incineration of PVC results in the formation of large quantities of dioxin which can cause cancer and immune, developmental and reproductive systems damage. PVC often contained softeners called phthalates which could leach out of products and they were also hormone disrupting.

No committment to phasing out such toxic chemicals could be found and as such the company lost half a mark under Pollution & Toxics.

Reference:

http://www.argos.co.uk/ (15 August 2018)

In February 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed the Sainsbury's website for the company's conflict minerals policy. It had a policy listed in the 2021 section of reports featured on the company website titled 'Precious Metals and Minerals Policy'.

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 policy did not clearly state a commitment towards continued sourcing from the DRC. However, it did state that Tantalum was commonly sourced from Africa, including artisanal mining in the DRC, and stated that 100% of tantalum smelters and nearly 100% of tungsten smelters were said to be certified by the Responsible Minerals Initiative. Gold was required to be sourced from refineries that were RMI conformant, on the London Bullion Market Association, on the London Platinum and Palladium Market, certified members of the Responsible Jewellery Council, or source from mines that adhere to the CRAFT standard.. It was unclear what percentage of tin was certified by RMI.

Overall, the policy was considered to show a commitment to conflict-free sourcing, continued sourcing from the DRC, and a commitment to ongoing due diligence.

The company stated in its questionnaire that it required suppliers to use conflict minerals reporting remplates by the RMI or OECD Due Diligence for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. It stated that it only used minerals from smelters that were auditied and verified conflict-free by the Responsibile Mineral Assurance Process or an equivalent.

It did not publish a list of smelters on its website. It said "We strongly encourage our suppliers to use the OECD due diligence guidance and our policy focuses on gaining traceability of materials used" but it did not appear to be a requirement that suppliers had a conflict minerals policy.

It was considered positive that Sainsbury's had developed a conflict mineral policy since we previously reviewed the company. Due to the limitations highlighted above it could not receive a best rating and as such received a middle rating and lost half a mark under the Habitats and Resources and Human Rights categories.

Reference:

www.about.sainsburys.co.uk (26 February 2021)

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 March 2021 Ethical Consumer downloaded Sainsbury's latest (2019) Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) from the RSPO's website and looked at the information provided on the company group's website.

Over 99% of the total palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives used by the company was reported to be certified by the RSPO and 66% of this was through a segregated mechanism.

The company picked up additional marks for disclosing volumes.

It did not appear to heave a clear group wide commitment.

It did not appear to be conducting any additional positive initiatives regarded as significant and it did not disclose its suppliers.

It received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for its palm oil policy and practice.

Reference:

Generic www.rspo.org 2021 (2021)