Ocado becomes first supermarket globally to have Net Zero HQ

Ocado Retail is the first supermarket globally to have a net zero head office following an agreement with Climeworks, a Swiss company providing the service of permanent carbon dioxide removal via direct air capture and storage technology.

Ocado.com (operated by Ocado Retail) is the world’s largest dedicated online supermarket, and is a joint venture between Marks & Spencer Group and Ocado Group. It is the first and only grocery retailer to have signed a carbon dioxide removal agreement with Climeworks. Joining the likes of Audi and Microsoft, the supermarket is helping to pave the way for a more sustainable future and is acting as a pioneer within its industry.

Through this new agreement, Ocado Retail has paid for over 1000 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be removed from the atmosphere, the equivalent of what it will emit over the next seven years at its HQ in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Its customers have helped contribute to the agreement by participating in Ocado’s closed loop recycling scheme - when a customer hands back Ocado bags back for recycling they receive a refund for the cost of the bag and what isn’t claimed is used to fund good causes.

As well as working to remove residual emissions, Ocado is working to reduce emissions across its entire operations, in line with the British Retail Consortium’s Climate Action Roadmap. The BRC works with retailers, their suppliers, government and other stakeholders to collectively deliver the industry’s net zero ambition.

This agreement is the latest addition to Ocado Retail’s overarching sustainability strategy to become net zero by 2040. Having earlier this year launched the UK’s largest B-Corp aisle, Ocado is also a founding member of the UK Plastics Pact - a group of businesses working together to create a circular economy for plastics to keep them out of the natural environment.

As part of the pact, all PVC, polystyrene and black plastics have been eliminated from Ocado’s own-range packaging. Ocado also has the intention to make all items 100% recyclable and to be derived from at least 30% recycled materials by 2025.

As a result of a recent rebrand of its own-brand range, the supermarket has improved its eco-credentials by making numerous changes to packaging so that items are easier to recycle, plus, Ocado is now using*:

? 65 tonnes less plastic
? 18 tonnes less virgin plastic
? 10 tonnes less paper/cardboard
? Just under 11 million fewer items of unnecessary packaging components

*[figures correct for the period from January - September 2021]

And, thanks to the online retailer’s unique supply chain, Ocado has the lowest food waste of any supermarket at just 0.4% compared to the industry average of between 2 and 5%.

Climeworks’ technology consists of modular CO2 collectors that capture CO2 from the atmosphere, which can then be permanently stored underground. Climeworks’ largest and most recent facility named Orca was launched in Iceland this September, where the air-captured CO2 is permanently stored via mineralization in basaltic rock formations thanks to Carbfix technology. The entire process is powered solely by renewable energy and does not compete with arable land.

Carbon dioxide removal, the permanent removal of CO2 from the air, is an important tool in the fight against climate change. The IPCC currently states that in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C, carbon removal solutions like direct air capture and storage are urgently needed on a large scale because they allow to remove residual emissions and get to net zero.

Daniel Costigan, Sustainability Lead at Ocado Retail, said, “We are immensely proud to be the first supermarket in the world to have a net zero office. Running a sustainable business is incredibly important to us and our customers and our agreement with Climeworks is a fantastic step as we continue to take strides to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Christoph Gebald, co-CEO and co-founder of Climeworks, commented, “We are excited and thankful to welcome a new industry leader through the agreement with Ocado. Ocado Retail’s net zero strategy is a great example of how emissions reduction and emissions removal should be combined.“