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Sainsbury’s pledges £1bn investment to go carbon neutral by 2040

Sainsbury’s is aiming to be net zero by 2040. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA

Sainsbury's has announced plans to invest £1 billion into making its operations carbon neutral by 2040 - a decade earlier than the UK's legal goal.

The retailer said it will cut emissions by reducing food waste, plastic packaging and water use, while increasing recycling and healthy and sustainable eating.

The company aims to reach net zero by 2040, which outpaces the UK's legally binding target to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Critics have said the pledge did not extend to the supermarket's supply network, which accounts for most of its emissions.

However, Sainsbury's said it would be contacting its suppliers.

Speaking about the supermarket's new target, outgoing Chief Executive Mike Coupe said: "2050 isn't soon enough.

"We have a duty to the communities we serve to continue to reduce the impact our business has on the environment," he said.

"Over the next 20 years we will invest a further £1 billion in programmes that will transform the way we do business and put environmental impact at the forefront of every decision we make."

The retailer aims to halve plastic packaging by 2025. Credit: PA

Sainsbury's said the changes will put the company in line with ambitions in the international Paris Agreement to curb temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Mr Coupe said Sainsbury's has already reduced its emissions by 35% over 15 years, despite the overall footprint of the business growing by 40%.

Chief Executive Mike Coupe, who recently announced he's stepping down in May. Credit: PA

The measures will include utilising renewable energy sources, shifting 20% of its cargo fleet to zero and low-carbon fuels by 2025 and switching all lighting in stores to LED by 2022.

The company also pledged to halve plastic packaging by 2025, and by the end of 2020 says it will have removed the dark-coloured, hard to recycle plastic and polystyrene packaging from Sainsbury's brand ranges, as well as removing plastic film on fruit and vegetables where possible.

The move comes days after Tesco pledged to scrap its plastic packaging from shrink-wrapped multipacks in March - it's estimated to remove 350 million tonnes of plastic waste a year.

Sainsbury's are piloting a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, continuing work to plant trees, and expanding the meat alternatives it sells, as well as cutting food waste by half by 2030.

Mike Coupe said Sainsbury's had already invested £260 million in more than 3,000 carbon-cutting initiatives over the last decade.

"Our commitment has always been to help customers live well for less, but we must recognise that living well now also means living sustainably," he said.