Major retailers in Australia wield significant economic influence. The sector is Australia’s second largest employer after healthcare, determines consumer choices and affects suppliers, producers and manufacturers across many economic sectors.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic radically transformed the Australian and global retail landscape, many of Australia’s major retailers were beginning to identify where they could reduce emissions associated with their product value chains, including emissions associated with their supply chains and supporting corporate activities.

Emissions from retail stores and company offices typically constitute a small proportion of a retailer’s total emissions. Most emissions are found ‘upstream’ along the value chain through the production of goods and their transportation, and ‘downstream’ through product use and disposal.

ClimateWorks and Monash Sustainable Development Institute’s Net Zero Momentum Tracker Retail Sector report assesses the emissions-reduction commitments and activities of 23 Australian retailers.

The report finds that approximately four in five companies assessed are undertaking activities to reduce emissions or have a stated commitment to do so but that no company has yet made a comprehensive commitment that lines up with net zero by 2050.

Key findings from this assessment of 23 leading Australian retail companies are:

  • None have made a comprehensive net zero emissions by 2050 commitment.
  • Two of the companies – Amazon and Kathmandu – have net zero by 2050 commitments for a significant proportion of their value chain emissions, and have the most ambitious commitments of
    those assessed.
  • An additional almost nine per cent of companies – that is, Aldi and Woolworths – do not have a net zero by 2050 commitment, but have set interim targets to reduce their value chain emissions that are compatible with this goal.

Of the remaining retail companies assessed: one (Wesfarmers) has a net zero by 2050 commitment for a small proportion of its emissions; fourteen (a group including Baby Bunting, JB Hi-Fi, David Jones and Myer that constitutes two-thirds of the total) have made climate commitments or are reducing their emissions but are not in alignment with the net zero by 2050 goal, and; four retailers (about one in five of those considered) have no disclosed emissions-reduction targets or activities.

The report finds that leading Australian retailers are alert to their role in reducing emissions across their value chains but that, on the whole, the retail sector is not yet making a significant contribution to emissions-reductions efforts across the economy. The voluntary steps taken to date nonetheless show the potential for retailers to join the growing momentum for major companies to support net zero emissions by 2050 Australia-wide.

Read the full report

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Net Zero Momentum Tracker

Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is a core action of the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and strive for 1.5 degrees. Many major global companies have incorporated this goal into their business strategies. In Australia, businesses and governments are doing the same, but there is no easily accessible place to assess these commitments, making them difficult to track.

The Net Zero Tracker will tell the story of Australia’s growing momentum towards net zero from a total and sector-based perspective.

Find out more about the Net Zero Momentum Tracker.