THE UK’s “greenest grocer” has launched an appeal to companies across North Wales to join the carbon zero crusade to help save the planet.

The call-to-arms, from Richard Walker, managing director of pioneering eco-aware supermarket Iceland, comes ahead of 'Net Zero 2021', a major online business conference taking place on May 20.

Themes at the online conference include energy and transport, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality. The free event runs from 9:30am to 3.45pm on Thursday, May 20 - with registration available here.

Iceland was the first supermarket to sign up to the worldwide 'Carbon Pledge' to become carbon neutral by 2040, ten years ahead of the UK government’s 2050 target.

Walker has led the £4 billion Flintshire-based food giant’s response to the climate crisis and its drive towards a goal of zero carbon.

Now he has called on the private and public sector across North wales, Merseyside and Cheshire to join their campaign and he said: “We all have to step up and take action because the clock is ticking.

“The sheer scale of what we need to do can seem overwhelming, but there’s a starting point for all of us and it’s here and now and it’s about committing to a Net Zero future.”

Stuart Lendrum, Iceland's head of food safety will be at the  conference organised by the North Wales/Mersey/Dee Business Council on Thursday, May 20.

He is among the speakers alongside major players such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Airbus, NatWest, Anglesey Sea Zoo and white-knuckle boat business RibRide and other small and medium sized businesses from across the region.

Lendrum said: “While we believe that every business has a moral responsibility to take ambitious action to address these major and urgent sustainability issues it is also a commercial imperative for any business that hopes to have a successful future.

“Our quest to save energy has seen our carbon footprint drop from almost a quarter of a million tonnes of CO2 in 2011 to just 46,257 tonnes in 2020, a 74 per cent reduction.”

That dramatic decrease has come despite having increased their total number of stores by 181 with an increase in sales of 36 per cent over the same period and it means they expect to reach their carbon zero target with something to spare.

They have switched their freezers to use greener gases, saving 30 per cent of energy, and invested millions in new LED lighting, synchronised to switch on and off with store opening and closing times.

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In 2019 they changed to 100 per cent renewable electricity, have replanned their fleet journeys, trained drivers to use telematics to cut fuel bills and are looking at a move to electric vehicles.

Having phased out both single use and heavy woven plastic bags, the business is committed to being plastic free on its own-label products by the end of 2023.

Iceland are being joined at the conference by some other big hitters from industry including Siemens Digital Industries Congleton who have backed a local hydro-electric scheme on the River Dane.

Andrew Peters, managing director of Siemens Congleton, said: “Siemens believe industry should lead on climate change, and to that end we have committed to make our global operations carbon neutral by 2030.

“At the conference we will share our journey to net zero and how we are making it sustainable”

It’s an example that’s been praised by Ashley Rogers, commercial director of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, who added:

“It’s great to have a major supermarket with its roots here in the Mersey-Dee region, as well as one of our major technology businesses both leading the way in carbon reduction.

“It’s an example we are following by announcing at the Conference our own Net Zero Leaders from across the region, the businesses, large and small, that are pioneering change.”

Also taking part in the conference are Harlech Foodservice, Tata Steel and the Carbon Trust as well as small and medium sized businesses from across the region.

Ashley Rogers added: “We have the capability to harness wind, solar and tidal power as well as developing major plans around hydrogen and a nuclear skills base but getting to Net Zero is not just about low carbon energy and new green jobs but also decarbonising our existing businesses.

“Now we want to recognise the companies that are already leading the way towards Net Zero and celebrate their role as pathfinders to this goal.”

The region’s Net Zero leaders will be chosen across three categories, micro business/start-up, small business and medium/large business categories by a distinguished panel of judges.

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They will be announced at the conference which will focus on how businesses can reduce their carbon footprint while improving performance at the same time.

Also among the line-up of contributors and supporters are Flintshire County Council, the Development Bank of Wales, Construction Industry Training Board, Chamber of Commerce, the FSB, UK Government, Clwyd Alyn Housing, Grwp Llandrillo Menai, the Mersey Dee Alliance and railway campaign group Growth Track 360.

Ashley Rogers added: “Our main aim for the conference is to provide inspiration, information and best practice examples for businesses and not for profit organisations for their journey to net zero. 

“We are so well-placed here because we have major cities in Liverpool and Chester, airports and ports, easy connections to the national motorway network, advanced manufacturing on the North East Wales-Cheshire border and fantastic natural resources in terms of wind and tidal power right across the North Wales and Mersey Dee area.”

The National is running our first Environmental Awards to celebrate the best green practice across Wales. These awards will shine a spotlight on the individuals, companies and organisations doing outstanding work to protect our environment and help stop climate change.

Find out more information and how to nominate here