John Lewis has pledged to have “buy back or take back” schemes operating in every product category by 2025 and to develop more rental and resale options as it steps up efforts to be a more sustainable business.
The group, which runs Waitrose supermarkets as well as a string of department stores, will also invest £2m over the next five years to restore and protect nature in Norfolk, a key source of meat, cereal and vegetable products, and in India’s Noyyal and Bhavani river basins, where it sources cotton, under a partnership with the wildlife charity WWF.
The company will encourage regeneration of species such as water vole, grey partridge and lapwing at its own farm, Leckford in Hampshire, where it will also aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural processes to net zero by 2024.
That effort is part of an aim to be net zero from all the UK farms in its supply base by 2035.
The initiatives are part of a series of new pledges for the group, which says it wants to be “bolder in protecting and restoring nature”.
Marija Rompani, the director of ethics and sustainability at John Lewis, said: “Delaying action is simply not an option.
“We all know that we can’t exist without nature; it is essential for our survival and it will play a vital role in solving the problem of climate change. We can’t solve one without the other, the crises of nature loss and climate change are inextricably linked.
“Whether it’s eliminating fossil fuel use across our transport operations, investing millions in conservation projects in regions where we source our products, or helping our farmers make the transition to net zero, we are acting where we can make the biggest impact.”
David Edwards, the director of food strategy at WWF, said the UK was in the bottom 10% of countries globally for the abundance of nature and one of the main reasons for that was the way we produce food.
“One of our ambitions with the John Lewis Partnership is to scale up regenerative, nature-friendly agricultural approaches in one of the UK’s most intensively farmed landscapes and use our learnings to inspire change across the food sector,” he said.
John Lewis has already experimented with renting out furniture in partnership with the third party Fat Llama as well as renting out or buying back clothing and giving discounts to those who bring back beauty packaging.
The latest commitments are more bold, including zero deforestation in the sourcing of key commodities.
It also now wants all timber, cotton, soya, palm oil, cocoa and cashmere – key raw materials – to come from more sustainable sources by 2025, and polyester, leather and human-made cellulose by 2028.