Chilling Facts III is released

This week sees the launch of EIA’s third supermarket survey. Over the past three years I’ve been amazed by the level of progress some retailers have made towards adopting HFC-free refrigeration. You’ll see from the results that 2010 was definitely the year HFC-free supermarket refrigeration went mainstream. Today a whopping 246 stores across Great Britain have HFC-free refrigeration systems in then, up from 46 last year, whilst hundreds of engineers have been trained to deal with climate-friendly refrigerants.

Chilling Facts 2011, where did your local supermarket come? Credit istock

The UK is now paving the way for climate-friendly refrigeration and is a global centre for innovation, we are quickly catching up with our Northern European neighbours and are miles ahead of many other European countries.

As an environmental campaigner I find I’m often exposed to bad news and uphill struggles, I suppose it’s the nature of the game. So it’s great to be working on a campaign that has made tangible changes. Many retailers have told us that our survey has raised the issue of refrigeration up to board level, helping to ensure that resources are given to tackle the environmental impacts of using HFCs.

We decided to started the survey in 2008 when, after reading through retailer’s corporate social responsibility reports, it became apparent that leaking HFCs can account for about one third of a supermarket’s carbon footprint! A shocking statistic and frustrating given that HFC-free alternatives exist.

This year’s results were very close, with the top four retailers- Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer all coming near to one another. However some supermarkets are still avoiding their responsibilities. The biggest disappointment was Asda, despite participating for the past two years this year Asda pulled out of our survey. Our research suggests that Asda has done little to move away from HFCs over the past year so it seems that their refusal was a strategic decision to avoid being ousted by our survey. Clearly this isn’t the way we’d expect a retailer who apparently prides themselves on sustainability to act.

Asda. Credit istockResponse to Asda

In an effort to enter into a dialogue with Asda, I attempted to post a response to the latest Asda Aisle Spy blog by Julian dated 28th March. However, after repeatedly trying it has not been published. Perhaps your comments might have more success.

Here is my response:

As one of the authors of EIA’s report I thought I should highlight our disappointment at the comments you have made here regarding our so called ‘one dimensional approach’. Readers of the report will see that EIA scores retailers based on ten categories and gives credit for efforts made to reduce energy use and leakage of refrigerant gases, which is precisely what we did for Asda last year. But from a long term sustainability point of view using potent greenhouse gases in refrigeration just isn’t viable. Unfortunately Asda is one of the only retailers who has reneged on a 2007 commitment to move away from climate wrecking HFC based refrigeration. Whilst Sainsbury’s has managed to roll out over 70 HFC-free systems in stores in just one year it looks like Asda has done little towards the commitment it made. You mention your CO2 store in Bootle which opened in 2009. Have you opened any other HFC-free stores since?  Sadly it seems that Asda just isn’t ready to start taking a longer term approach still favouring the use of outdated climate wrecking technologies whilst its competitors move ahead with sustainable agendas. We are keen to find out more about the work Asda is doing to reduce the impacts of refrigeration and feel that your participation in the survey is an opportunity to demonstrate the work Asda is doing, as you will see despite your refusal to participate this EIA has highlighted efforts to reduce energy use trials of fridge doors.