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UK retailers sign up to UN sustainability goals

More than 25 of the UK’s best-known retailers have signed up to a series of pledges to take collective action to tackle environmental issues, inequality and modern slavery.

Household names such as Aldi, Boots, House of Fraser, Ikea, John Lewis, Lidl, M&S, Next, Sainsbury’s, and WHSmith have signed up to a raft of joint targets based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said its new Better Retail Better World strategy was one of the first to see firms agree to shared sustainability goals, commit to jointly disclosing their progress and promise to share best practice.

Seagulls fly above a landfill site (Chris Radburn/PA)

The strategy includes a mixture of specific targets and more general goals with deadlines ranging from 2020 to 2030.

It addresses five of the 17 goals established by the UN’s SDGs, covering work and economic growth, reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities and responsible consumption and production, as well as climate action.

Environmental commitments for 2020 include pledges to publicly disclose business’s climate change risks and vulnerabilities, reduce waste sent to landfill, ensure all operational water use is measured and unveil community engagement strategies.

Other targets include:

– publicly disclosing how retailers are supporting people from under-represented demographics to progress in employment and embedding a policy that no worker in the supply chain should pay for a job;

– to tackle situations where low-wage workers borrow large sums of money to cover recruitment fees, putting them at risk of exploitation, including debt bondage.

BRC chairman Richard Pennycook said: “This is part of a growing movement for change. It is time for the retail industry to show what it can do for the common good.

“We are taking collective action to build a better, more prosperous and sustainable world, and demonstrating how we are making a positive contribution to society, in terms of the supply chain, food packaging, and waste.”

Tanya Steele, chief executive of the charity WWF, said: “We are delighted to support the Better Retail Better World industry goals which provide BRC members with some of the best information and guidance to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The goals are what the SDGs are all about: bringing business, civil society and government together to bring about change in the world.

“Retail businesses working with consumers are key to the success of the SDGs and key in the race to restore nature.”

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