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South African Retailer Shoprite Takes Out Biggest Sustainability Loan & First Green Loan In Retail Sector

South Africa’s Shoprite Group is expanding its key environmental programs as part of its sustainability strategy. One the major components of this strategy is the accelerated rollout of solar PV at its supermarkets and distribution centers.

Shoprite operates in 11 African countries. The Group has more than 2,900 stores across Africa. Some of the Shoprite Group’s famous customer facing brands include Checkers, Shoprite, USave, OK, and House & Home. The total installed capacity from these onsite solar plants so far now stands at 26.6 MW! This is enough to meet 2.8% of the group’s electricity needs. Shoprite has a target of increasing this to meet 5% of its electricity needs by the end of this financial year.

Shoprite plans to meet all its electricity requirements from renewables by 2050 through a combination of onsite solar, offsite solar, offsite wind, and other renewables. The Shoprite Group is also growing its solar-assisted fleet of trailers for its trucks. The Group now has 903 trucks and 1,360 trailers. Of these, 1041 trailers now have solar panels installed on the roof to support refrigeration loads. The solar panels are also used to power tail lifts for the rest of the non-refrigerated fleet. The solar panels on its refrigerated trailers allow operators to switch off the diesel engine when the trucks are stationary. The solar panels on the trailers have helped to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and 3,290 tCO2 have been saved from avoided diesel use by the solar-powered fleet.

To further accelerate its sustainability program, the Shoprite Group has finalized sustainability-linked loans worth R3.5 billion ($200 million) for investments to expand its key environmental projects. The loans include a R2 billion ($113.7 million) loan from Standard Bank, which is the bank’s biggest in the South African retail sector to date, an R800 million ($46.5 million) sustainability-linked loan and a R700 million ($39.8 million) green loan, a first in the retail sector from RMB for investment in environmental projects. A further sustainability-linked loan is in the pipeline.

The Shoprite Group will use the loans to boost investment in renewable energy and the increase of energy from renewable sources as a percentage of total electricity consumption. The loans will also be used to accelerate the recycling of cardboard and plastic as well as increasing the use of sustainable packaging including reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging. Energy efficiency initiatives including LED lighting, plus a monitoring system for refrigeration to reduce energy consumption and waste will also be included.

These investments will enable the Group to expand on the substantial investments it has already made. In the previous financial year, the Shoprite Group:

  • Reduced carbon emission intensity by 3.3% and water use intensity by 7.5%
  • Increased the installed capacity of its solar photovoltaic (PV) systems by 82%
  • Reduced electricity consumption by 150 million kWh through its LED lamp replacement project since inception
  • Recycled 46 102tons of cardboard from stores and distribution centres, and diverted 10 241 tons of plastic waste from landfills
  • Paid R2.2 million in rebates to customers for reusing their Planet bags since inception

Sanjeev Raghubir, the Group’s Sustainability Manager, said “The loans enable us to continue on the road to reduce our environmental footprint by using more renewable energy and sustainable packaging, and recycling more waste. These environmental programmes are key in our fight against climate change, and we are able to increase the pace and intensity of our actions with these loans.”

According to Raghubir, the Group’s record to date has provided funders with demonstrable evidence of the nature and scale of its sustainability projects and ambitions and enabled the retailer to access a preferential cost of funding.

“The loans allow us to continue to make a sustainable, positive environmental impact and improve our operational efficiencies, which in turn result in additional ongoing savings that we can pass on to our customers.”

The Shoprite Group is South Africa’s largest retailer by market capitalization, sales, profit, number of employees and customers.

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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