Supermarket expands carbon footprinting project

Sainsbury’s is rolling out its successful carbon footprinting project to more farmer suppliers, in a bid to help them cut costs and their environmental impact.

The carbon footprinting project is already the largest of its kind to be undertaken by a retailer, having launched to dairy producers in 2007. Since then, 333 dairy producers, 1400 lamb producers and 200 beef farmers have taken part, leading to massive cuts in energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy producers alone had cut emissions by 6% and energy bills by £1.2m.

“When we started carbon footprinting, farmers were very cynical, but there are practical things they can do on farm to reduce their footprint and save them money,” said head of agriculture Annie Graham. Speaking at the Royal Bath & West Show this week (2 June), she said Sainsbury’s was rolling out the project to 600 pig, poultry and egg producers, with cereal and potato farmers due to take part next year.

“We’ve invested a lot of time to help minimise the impact Sainsbury’s has on the environment,” said property director Neil Sachdev. “Some of what we’ve trialled has made a real difference to our energy consumption, and we want to give the knowledge that we’ve built up to farmers, to help them reduce their energy consumption and, in turn, save some money.”

Participating farmers spent half a day collating information on farm energy and water use, with industry experts ready to advise on how to minimise input costs and gas emissions. “It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, and it’s up to the farmer to decide what to do – we are not setting targets at this stage,” said Miss Graham.

The retailer was also organising workshops to help farmers improve efficiencies – by improving grassland management, dairy cow fertility or nutrient management, for example.

Cardiff dairy farmer Robert Reader was initially rather sceptical about the project, but had since made significant energy and cost savings. “I’m definitely a convert. The first step is measurement – unless you actually sit down and work out where your electricity and fuel is going you can’t do anything about it.”

He installed energy saving light bulbs and put difficult arable fields down to grass to save on fuel. “It is very easy to cut the lighting proportion of your bill in half. We’re also planning a new milking parlour and want to have state of the art features like a bulk milk tank with an ice bank, to cool during off-peak hours, and a heat exchanger to cut heating bills. Energy and fuel prices are only going to go up, so people who invest in energy saving measures now will be smiling broadly in 10 years time.”

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