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Metro makes first climate risk disclosures in 2023 ESG report

Announces first targets aligned with Science Based Targets initiative

Metro's automated distribution centre in Terrebonne, Qué. is an example of efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through LED lighting, natural refrigerant systems and electric vehicle charging stations. (Courtesy Metro Inc.)

Grocer and retailer Metro Inc. cemented its environmental commitments in 2023 with two key accomplishments: aligning its climate target with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and addressing climate risk with an internationally-recognized framework.

The two initiatives fall under the Montreal-based firm's 2022 to 2026 corporate responsibility plan, which encompasses climate, sustainable procurement, minimizing waste, as well as equity, diversity and inclusion.

By 2035, Metro is aiming for a 37.5 per cent reduction in its overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to its 2020 baseline.

"The company is on track to achieve its corporate responsibility objectives by 2026. Our teams have been working diligently on major projects aligned with our CR (corporate responsibility) plan, because we are determined to achieve our objectives,” Eric La Flèche, Metro's president and CEO, said in the company’s 2023 corporate responsibility report.

Metro operates or services almost 1,600 food and pharmacy stores across Canada, including brands such as its namesake, Food Basics and Jean Coutu. It reported more than $20 billion in sales in 2022.

Metro’s climate targets

To align Metro with SBTi, the company committed its interim 2030 GHG reduction targets to the global standard in November 2023. The targets have yet to be verified by the organization.

Metro's 2030 goals are:

  • a 42 per cent reduction in Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions;
  • reducing Scope 3 GHG emissions from purchases of goods and services, downstream transportation and distribution by 25 per cent; and
  • cutting its Scope 3 forest, land and agriculture GHG emissions by 30 per cent.

It has also set out to have 45 per cent of its suppliers, by spend, aligned with SBTi by 2028.

From July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, Metro’s Scope 1 emissions were calculated at 270,470 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, and 15,605 tonnes of Scope 2 carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. A limited Scope 3 emissions inventory was measured at 455,264 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Metro made a 1.4 per cent total reduction from its 2020 baseline, but also saw an increase in overall emissions from 2022. The company attributed this to a refrigerant leak in one of its distribution centres and an increase in carbon intensity for Ontario's 
electrical grid.

The company fell short of its ambition to achieve a 2.5 per cent average reduction in GHG emissions per year.

It also calculated a more complete picture of its Scope 3 emissions for the first time in 2023: 11,448,810 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Metro commenced its first climate scenario analysis in 2023, following an earlier commitment to be advised by the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. The examination looks at potential climate-related risks and opportunities in 2030, 2050 and 2090, which is information Metro can also provide to its stakeholders.

Climate Engagement Canada, an investor-led engagement initiative, claims to have helped guide Metro to its medium-term climate targets.

How Metro will reduce its emissions

The grocery chain’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions take the form of:

  • investing in renewable energy;
  • pursuing energy efficiency through LED lighting retrofits, equipment maintenance and heat exchange optimization from refrigeration units;
  • electrifying its vehicle fleet;
  • using natural refrigerants in place of older gases that rely on carbon dioxide and erode the ozone layer;
  • engaging with key suppliers; and
  • minimizing food waste sent to landfills, where it decomposes and releases GHGs.

Metro cites its automated distribution centre in Terrebonne, Qué. as an example of its sustainable building program.

At almost 600,000 square feet, the centre is equipped with LED lighting, natural refrigerant systems and has 20 electric vehicle charging stations for employees. Metro intends to add up to six charging stations for its fleet of trucks and tractors.

Taking a bite out of food and packaging waste

Metro’s effort to shrink food and packaging waste affects its stores, distribution and production centres.

It has set out to have 25 per cent of its stores be zero waste (diverting 90 per cent-or-more waste) and 25 per cent to have a diversion rate between 80 per cent and 89 per cent. Its overall store waste diversion rate in 2023 was 66 per cent, identical to 2022 and a one per cent decline from 2020.

Though the overall number fell, Metro highlighted some small improvements. Two per cent of its stores achieved zero waste in 2023 compared to one per cent in 2022, and 16 per cent of stores had a diversion rate between 80 per cent and 89 per cent in 2023, compared to 12 per cent of its stores in 2022.

The effort in its distribution and production centres was more successful. In 2023, the diversion rate was 71 per cent, up five per cent from 2022.

Metro attributes this to “increased employee awareness, new programs and more accurate data provisioning through partnerships with service providers.”

Food loss and waste in its stores decreased by 21 per cent as of July 2023; the target is 50 per cent by 2025.

Addressing its packaging, Metro prioritized boosting the recycled content and recyclability of plastic containers in the fresh products sections.

For example, it only accepts polystyrene trays containing no chemical pigments or dyes, and containing over 50 per cent recycled content. It has started to phase out difficult-to-recycle plastics such as polystyrene.

Trays composed of RPET, a recycled plastic that is recyclable multiple times, are being used for all pre-packaged meat and fish products distributed in its Ontario food banners and sold under its Irresistibles brand.

Metro said it is on track to meet its target of increasing the percentage of post-consumer materials in the packaging of its private label products. For example, Selection and Irresistibles jam jars are now made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled glass, replacing 323 tonnes of virgin glass with recycled glass.

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