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In this sustainability blog, Christina Downend, Head of Climate Change at Dunelm, explains how Dunelm is responding to climate change challenges and reflects on how pledges made at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow earlier this month are likely help Dunelm in the longer term.

“We are a UK business and having COP26 and world leaders on our doorstep definitely raised awareness across society, and was reflected in the growing enthusiasm from colleagues throughout our business, plus the Board’s determination to make our own contribution to combatting climate change. It was hard to miss the daily news and debate that COP26 generated, and some Dunelm colleagues took part in an event up in Scotland prior to the conference in support of the ambitions.  We aim to keep this awareness front of mind and to build on its momentum.

Prior to COP26, we had already publicly announced our public climate change commitments. In February 2021 we announced our 10-year greenhouse gas reduction targets aligned to a 1.5°C pathway, and our support for the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Climate Action Roadmap. In April 2021, we became the first homewares retailer to join Textiles 2030, committing to their targets to reduce carbon emissions, water by 2030 by 50% and 30% respectively.  In September 2021 we joined the United Nations global Race to Zero campaign and committed to setting verifiable science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which we hope to get approved in the new year.  

Some might say targets are the easy part and could be considered just 'blah blah blah' (to quote a famous teenager) but we have already acted across the Group to decarbonise our business. We are replacing natural gas heating in stores with electric heating and continue to review and build solar panels on roofs where possible. All company car options will be ultra-low emissions by the end of 2024 and we are working to make our home delivery network as efficient as possible. We have reduced our Scope 2 emissions to zero through our switch to Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO)-qualifying electricity sources for all sites where we purchase this directly and have committed to doing so (as a minimum) until 2030. Through this transition we have reduced our emissions by 11,000 tonnes of CO2e since the start of 2019. 

As it common with most retailers, over 90% of our carbon emissions fall under Scope 3 and come from the sourcing and manufacturing of products across complex, global supply chains. Our target is to reduce Scope 3 emissions reduction in absolute terms by 2030 (using FY19 as a baseline) and this target represents our toughest challenge and greatest opportunity. Following intensive data-gathering work last year, we can better focus our efforts on our most material areas, including specific areas of textile supply chains for Dunelm-branded products, outsourced logistics and major non-store purchases. However, to tackle effective supply chain decarbonisation as quickly as leaders at COP26 urged, industry and international collaboration is paramount, and we welcomed key pledges made at COP26 as we believe these will have long-term positive impacts for our business.

COP 26’s pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 is particularly relevant to Dunelm. Behind textiles, timber is our next most material supply chain. We already have targets to source more timber used in our furniture ranges from more sustainable sources. This pledge made by 100 world leaders at COP26 will lead to more sustainable forests and more opportunity for us to source from them.

With 35% of the world’s electricity still coming from coal, the agreement to phase down coal power by 190 countries is also positive. This global transition will help to cut carbon that is embedded in materials and products that we source globally and will make it easier for us to reduce carbon along our supply chain.

The Glasgow Pact also urges developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for developing nations from 2019 levels by 2025. This increased pot of money is earmarked either for large-scale investments to reduce emissions or for actions to adapt to adverse climate change impacts. In time, this will support growers and businesses in some of our key sourcing regions, making their activities, and therefore our supply chains, more resilient and secure, and less carbon intensive.

Whether these pledges will happen quickly or universally enough is a moot point but progress in these areas is key. As a large UK retailer, we have a responsibility to reduce the impact of climate change as urgently as possible and will continue to ramp up our plans, fully supported by the Board, to do so.”

For more information, watch this space for updates.