The store, which regularly touts its green credentials and has a far-reaching green strategy called Plan A, was downgraded from leadership status by the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency when it comes to phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from its chillers and putting doors on them to save energy.
Waitrose, Tesco and the Co-op were praised as leaders in the sixth annual edition of the NGO’s Chilling Facts report, leaving M&S to sit alongside Iceland and Lidl for not making progress fast enough. Sainsbury’s no longer takes part in the exercise.
Refrigeration accounts for about half of supermarkets’ energy consumption, and campaigners have been calling for years for a phase-out of HFCs to chill food and drink, as they can leak into the atmosphere and act as a powerful greenhouse gas. Retailers are being urged to switch to natural refrigeration, some of which uses CO2 instead.
M&S was criticised for replacing many of its refrigeration units with hybrid HFC/CO2 units – which reduce emissions – instead of going entirely HFC-free. It was also chided for failing to roll out a 2011 pilot scheme to put doors on fridges in its stores.
However, a spokesman for M&S defended the hybrid approach, saying: “We’re making great progress on reducing carbon emissions from refrigeration. We hit our 2015 target two years early and last year reported emissions down 73% compared to 2007.
“We’re committed to extending this further and will trial doors on fridges next year as well as continuing our innovative work on alternatives to chill our delivery fleets.”
Across Europe, the report suggests supermarkets are moving rapidly away from HFCs, with the number of stores using natural refrigerants up in the past two years from 730 to 1,889.
Fionnuala Walravens, the report’s author, said: “Retailer feedback shows that adding doors can result in energy savings of about 33%. Those companies reluctant to make the move claim doors would significantly reduce impulse buying but the evidence from retailers who have introduced doors refutes this.
“Refrigeration units with doors mean customers don’t have to scurry uncomfortably along aisles in near-arctic conditions and, as they require much smaller quantities of refrigerant, they are easier and safer to run on natural refrigerants.”
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