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Green-up in aisle four: Loblaw vows to cut carbon emissions

A Loblaws manager picks up groceries for a customer at a Toronto store.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is pledging to reduce its carbon emission by 30 per cent by 2030, while the national grocer urges federal and provincial governments to harmonize their climate policies as much as possible to reduce the complexity.

Loblaw ranks among the country's largest energy users and, in a statement to be released Wednesday, the company said its effort is in line with federal and provincial governments' target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Its statement comes days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and most premiers reached a pan-Canadian climate strategy that sets a common approach to carbon pricing and promises a plethora of regulations and subsidies aimed at meeting the country's international GHG commitment.

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Two provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, refused to sign the deal, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is embroiled in a bitter political battle over her government's carbon tax.

Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston was one of 27 business and environmental leaders who, in a letter released Monday, endorsed the federal-provincial plan that includes a "rising price on carbon" and new regulatory standards for electricity and energy efficiency. Mr. Weston is a supporter of the Ottawa-based advocacy group, Smart Prosperity, which brought together business and other leaders to call for strong climate action.

While the chairman was not available for an interview, Loblaw senior vice-president Bob Chant said the GHG policy is consistent with the company's social-responsibility mandate of taking action where it can have a large impact. "This is an area where we think it is part of our responsibility because we are a national company that has a relatively large carbon footprint and we think we can do something about it," Mr. Chant said. "We think we can do our part."

As a national company, Loblaw is concerned about the emerging patchwork of provincial climate regulations with which it will have to comply, the executive said. "There are still differences between each jurisdiction and that can be a challenge for business, there's no question," he said. "We are always looking for harmonization and consistency across all jurisdictions in regulations. That just makes the act of conducting business easier and less expensive."

Loblaw is just one of several major retailers in Canada that is touting its efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In many cases, the investments provide a return in the form of lower operating costs; they are also part of the retailers' attempts to brand themselves as good corporate citizens.

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Executives from Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. recently participated with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr in a jointly funded program to provide electric-vehicle charging stations at 25 of the retailer's gas stations in Ontario. IKEA AB plans to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes in its buildings by 2020.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has committed to reducing its GHGs by 18 per cent by 2025 and is one of North America's largest investors in renewable energy, including solar and wind.

Loblaw intends to meet its target by investing in energy efficiency to cut its electricity use by 35 per cent by 2030, reduce refrigerant emissions by 50 per cent by reducing its reliance on GHG-intensive hydrofluorocarbons, and manage its transportation system to improve the efficiency of moving goods, including switching to natural-gas-fired trucks where feasible. It will also cut by 80 per cent the amount of waste that goes to landfills from its stores.

It also boasts the largest fleet of rooftop solar panels in the country.

"We believe that climate change is real; we believe that climate change is an issue that most Canadians are very concerned about," Mr. Chant said. "The financial implications [of the company's actions] are built into our capital plan or overall operating plan and there are savings to be made from the investments we make and there is a return."

The company did not reveal how much it would spend on the initiative and what levels of returns it expects.

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About the Author
Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

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