In June 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed the WHSmith website for the company's environmental policy or report. WHSmith had a webpage dedicated to its environmental responsibility. WHSmith appeared to understand its environmental impacts in both its operations and supply chain, particularly relating to waste from packaging, food waste and pressure on the world’s “forestry resources”. Ethical Consumer viewed WHSmith’s environmental policy which was dated July 2020 and WHSmith’s Sustainability Report 2020.

This report stated that the company would aim “To ensure no deforestation from sourcing of raw materials for our own-brand products or Goods not for Resale by the end of 2025“ and to “Remove plastic glitter from all own-brand products by the end of 2021”. WHSmith PLC also committed to “Purchase 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2021 for our UK business and by the end of 2025 for our International businesses”. It was not clear if this was direct purchase of renewable energy or reliant on REGOs.
The report also detailed that “Corporate Citizenship has been engaged by WHSmith to provide independent limited assurance of the data within its Sustainability Report 2020”.

The company had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts, and had an environmental policy dated within two years of review. Ethical Consumer considers a strong policy to include two future, quantified environmental targets and to have its environmental data independently verified. WHSmith met these criteria and therefore, WHSmith received Ethical Consumer's best rating for Environmental Reporting and was not marked down in this category.

Reference:

WHSmith Annual Sustainability Report 2020 (19 July 2021)

In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed the website of WHSmith looking for information on what the company was doing to tackle climate change and found a Sustainability Report 2020. Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:

1. 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. 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, and to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place.
2. For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company), and,
3. to go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).
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.

If a company met all of these 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.

1. Ethical Consumer found WHSmith’s ‘Sustainability Report 2020’ which provided meaningful discussion of its key climate related impacts, particularly related to energy efficiency across its stores, transport operations from distribution centres to stores, as well as its supply chain emissions. The company mentioned that it had a target to reduce Scope 1&2 carbon emissions by 45% per square foot by 2020 (against a 2007 baseline) from its UK stores and distribution centres, and that it had achieved this. WHSmith also stated that it had seen a 66% reduction in carbon intensity since 2007, which it later explained was per square foot. The company stated that, to cut future emissions, the company would “work with landlords to reduce emissions from stores owned by third parties”. Additionally, WHSmith also stated that it would engage “key suppliers responsible for 50% of our supply chain emissions to ensure that by 2025 they have plans in place to reach net zero by 2025”.

2. WHSmith provided annual reporting of its Scope 1 and 2 emissions for both 2019 and 2020 in tonnes of co2e.

3. The company did provide a detailed description of its annual scope 3 emissions and that its “largest source of emissions is from the production of those goods and services which we procure from our suppliers.”

4. The company stated that it had a series of targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. WHSmith stated that it had “set a new target for all our UK operations to be net zero by 2021 and for our international operations to be net zero by 2025.” However, WHSmith did not state if it excluded offsetting from its targets which Ethical Consumer considered necessary to be considered meaningful targets.

Overall, WHSmith did meet points 1, 2 and 3 of Ethical Consumer’s criteria for carbon management reporting, but did not sufficiently meet point 4 as it did not clarify that its targets were not reliant on offsets. Therefore, WHSmith received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for carbon management and reporting and lost half a mark under Climate Change.

Reference:

WHSmith Annual Sustainability Report 2020 (19 July 2021)

In September 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed WHSmith website for evidence that the company sold own brand paper. The company stated that “We stock an enormous selection of paper and craft card that's suitable for home use, office work, college studies, school and university”. Ethical Consumer considered paper products to have made up a significant part of a company’s product offering.

Ethical Consumer then searched for company policies regarding the sourcing of its paper products. A Sustainability Report 2020 was found as well as a Sustainable Forests Policy dated 2020.

The Sustainable Forests Policy stated that “WHSmith supports the use of third party certification to show sustainable production and transparent trade… The schemes that we consider to best meet these requirements are those provided by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and where this is not available, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), for paper, pulp and timber-based products” However, no quantified targets were provided.
In its 2020 Sustainability Report, it stated that the company was committed to “ensuring that all virgin (i.e. non-recycled) material used in our products is from known, legal, well-managed and credibly-certified forests” and that the FSC and PEFC standards applied “to our own-brand products and to goods that we buy that are not for resale”. The report also stated that “Our sourcing teams both in the UK and the Far East work with our suppliers to help them understand our requirements and how the data they provide is needed to demonstrate that the pulp used in a WHSmith product is sourced from a certified or recycled source” and that the company had “already exceeded our 2020 target of 95 per cent last year, and have this year reached 99 per cent”. However, the company failed to state exactly how much of the products were sourced from FSC versus PEFC. The company also did not provide any future quantified targets for increasing its sourcing of recycled paper.

As it was not clear whether WHSmith sourced over 90% FSC certified paper it received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for its policies on paper products.

Reference:

WHSmith Annual Sustainability Report 2020 (19 July 2021)

In September 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed WH Smith's forest sourcing policy and 2020 Sustainability Report.
Ethical Consumer's timber sourcing rating 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 - YES
2. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources and... - YES
3. ...a discussion on how a company ensures/ implements this - YES
4. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources - YES in report.
5. a discussion of a good minimum standard - YES (As a minimum we expect our suppliers to know where forest material used in their products comes from and be able to provide evidence that it has been legally harvested.)
6. preference given to certified sources - YES
7. a discussion about tropical hardwoods (THW) and the percentage of THW sourced that are FSC certified - NO
8. involvement with a multi-stakeholder initiative or bridging programme such as the World Wildlife Fund- Global Forest Trade Network - NO
9. use of reclaimed or recycled wood/ paper - UNCLEAR IF USING CURRENTLY - although it mentioned recycled sources as something it encouraged it did not break down its sourcing figures to show if any was actually recycled.
10. a high total percentage (50%+) of FSC certified timber sourced by the company. - In its 2020 Sustainability Report, it stated that the company was committed to “ensuring that all virgin (i.e. non-recycled) material used in our products is from known, legal, well-managed and credibly-certified forests” and that the FSC and PEFC standards applied “to our own-brand products and to goods that we buy that are not for resale”. The report also stated that “Our sourcing teams both in the UK and the Far East work with our suppliers to help them understand our requirements and how the data they provide is needed to demonstrate that the pulp used in a WHSmith product is sourced from a certified or recycled source” and that the company had “already exceeded our 2020 target of 95 per cent last year, and have this year reached 99 per cent”.
Because its policy address SIX of the ten issues identified by Ethical Consumer, WH Smith received a best rating for timber sourcing.

Reference:

Forest sourcing policy (16 August 2018)