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Most of the sustainability and social issues we face can’t be resolved by a single organisation, or by implementing one solution. Businesses, governments, NGOs and consumers must all contribute to achieve fundamental shifts on specific challenges. We frequently advocate a specific position or approach to an issue in order to promote wide-scale change at the right pace – focusing on public policy and thought leadership.

Public policy can set guiding principles and general direction, offer incentives, and prompt legislation to make change easier. Conversely, it can provide obstacles to a better future. It’s important that pro-sustainability businesses speak out and take action to influence public policy and practice in ways that result in stronger sustainability outcomes.

Contributing to thought leadership is important to ensure that the retail sector transforms itself as quickly as possible. We’ve learnt many lessons from Plan A and we readily share practical insights with other retailers.

Commitments and targets  
Our ambition is to accelerate change by leading with others. We’re committed to engaging with governments, both directly and indirectly through industry groups, trade bodies and the third sector.

We aim to help shape public policy that’s relevant to our business interests, and to the retail sector. 

We’re committed to share practical insights and knowledge to help others refine their ideas and develop effective sustainability solutions.

We champion sustainability and choice in the development of economic, environment and social policy. We’re politically neutral and make no donations to political parties.

We’re focused on six areas that we believe are most crucial to delivering our ambitions: demonstrating the business case for sustainability; climate change; deforestation; product sustainability; circular economy; and enhancing the lives of people and communities.

We’re also involved in other policy areas that are relevant to us. These include: the environment; employment and skills; consumer affairs and trading; food; finance and tax; and planning and trade.

We advocate on issues in many different ways and many different levels, from local communities through to international forums. We focus on: media work, consultation responses, political engagement, and participation in multi-stakeholder activities.

We try to advocate openly and constructively, in line with our values and aims. We take the views of other stakeholders – for example customers and employees – into account when we develop our views about policy. 

Our definition of advocacy covers public policy and thought leadership positions:

Public policy advocacy 
We engage with a number of political audiences, primarily the UK Government and Parliament, the EU Commission and Parliament, and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We only employ political consultants to provide background support – they don’t make representations on our behalf. 

In responding to government consultations, we prefer to support trade bodies, such as the British Retail Consortium or the CBI. Whenever we make a formal individual response, we publish it. 

Our Code of Ethics and Behaviours sets out our key policies and procedures for lobbying and political engagement.
Thought leadership advocacy 

We engage with many organisations, including Consumer Good Forum, Business in the Community, Aldersgate Group, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to support their objectives on specific sustainability issues.

Below is an outline of some of the advocacy activity that we have been involved with and some examples where we have been particularly engaged within the last year: 

Demonstrating the business case for and a progressive approach to responsible business
Fortune Favours the Brave
We’re committed to promote the link between sustainable business models and improved commercial returns.

In 2013, we worked with Accenture and Business in the Community to jointly publish a report called ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’, which argued that UK businesses could benefit by up to £100bn if they adopt more sustainable practices.
Engaging in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help the world move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy
Climate policy advocacy
We advocate for effective, proportionate and fair regulation on climate change issues. We’ve supported the need for mandatory reporting on greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and for ambitious legally binding emissions reduction and energy efficiency targets in the UK, EU and globally.

We believe business leadership is needed to make a global climate deal happen. Through our membership of the Consumer Goods Forum, the Aldersgate Group and the World Economic Forum we supported initiatives to help achieve an agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21).

We were signatories to a letter organised by the Aldersgate Group, which was sent to the Heads of State and Government of the European Union, calling for ‘a robust 2030 energy and climate policy framework and energy security strategy,’ that can meet Europe's long-term climate objectives and deliver a global climate agreement in next year's negotiations in Paris.

Through the World Economic Forum, we signed an open letter from global CEOs from 43 companies with operations in over 150 countries and territories, to world leaders. The letter called for concrete climate action and for an ambitious climate deal at COP21, aligned with the UN Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We’re signatories of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group’s Trillion Tonne Communiqué – a global call to arms from businesses that take the science of climate change seriously and demand a proactive policy response.

Global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
We’ve reinforced our commitment to the introduction of a science-based emissions reduction target, the procurement of all electricity from renewable sources, and consistent climate change reporting, through the CDP’s Road to Paris 2015 and the We Mean Business coalition.

In May 2015, we joined the RE100 Campaign, a global initiative run by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, which supports major companies committing to using 100% renewable energy.

We’ve committed to source 100% of our directly procured UK and the Republic of Ireland electricity from renewable sources. Joining RE100 gives us an opportunity to share what we’ve learned, and to encourage other businesses to switch to renewable energy.

In 2017, we joined the Science Based Targets initiative and had our emissions reduction targets which were established in line with climate science formally approved. 

Eliminating deforestation from the use of key commodities in the production of products by 2020
Reducing deforestation and forest degradation
Recognising the role of forest protection as part of climate change mitigation, and building on our significant progress to date, we aim to achieve zero deforestation from the use of palm oil, soy, cattle and paper materials in the production of our products by 2020.

Through our membership of the Consumer Goods Forum we’re supplementing our involvement in multi-stakeholder initiatives by:
  • Urging governments to make the United Nations REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) a priority 
  • Supporting an industry-wide push to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, through sustainable sourcing of key commodities
We’ve reinforced our commitment to remove commodity-driven deforestation from our supply chains, through the CDP’s Road to Paris 2015 and the We Mean Business coalition.

Improving the sustainability of consumer products and championing a common global approach to product sustainability
Sustainable clothing
We’re looking for different ways to make the clothing we sell more sustainable – both in their production and their use by customers.

The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) convenes the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and we are active members of its Steering Group. 

SCAP aims to improve the sustainability of clothing throughout its lifecycle. Bringing together industry, government and the third sector, it aims to reduce resource use and develop sector-wide targets. Leading clothing companies have pledged to measure and reduce their environmental footprints, by signing the SCAP 2020 Commitment.
Accelerating the transition to a sustainable circular economy
Circular economy policy
We’re members of the Circular Economy 100 (CE100) group, run by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The circular economy is an important part of our Plan A commitments, and we’re prioritising it. We’ve also explored ways that policymakers can encourage the transition to the circular economy.

We were one of the signatories to a letter organised by Friends of the Earth and EEF, published in the Daily Telegraph in December 2014. It warned against scrapping the original EU circular economy package. We’re closely monitoring developments on this issue and responded to the revised proposals. 

We’ve contributed to a number of projects and reports on the circular economy, including work by the British Retail Consortium and The Aldersgate Group, which advocate improved access to data, the use of tax, prioritising where the largest benefits would occur, and a greater use of standards. We also backed the Aldersgate Group’s work on An Economy that Works and Resilience in the Round.

Preventing food waste
We supported the IGD's Working on Waste campaign which focused on helping its 3.6 million employees in the food and grocery industry reduce household food waste.

Enhancing the lives of people and communities
Promoting responsible sourcing practices

In every country we source from, we work with key suppliers (and if relevant, national governments, multilateral platforms and civil society) to ensure workers’ rights are respected and policies are in place to ensure a safe working environment and work towards a fair wage for our supply chain workers. 

We were one of five retailers that sponsored the ‘Stronger Together’ initiative. Developed by the Association of Labour Providers (ALP), the Gangmasters Licensing & Labour Abuse Authority (GLA) and Migrant Help, Stronger Together aims to give UK employers the knowledge and resources they need to recognise and address exploitation in the food and agriculture industries.

Find out more about our approach to responsible sourcing.

Find out more about our approach to respecting human rights