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Each week we share the top sustainability news stories from around the world. Here’s this week’s round up:

This week, we explore how the supermarket industry is changing in one country, a multinational insurer setting an example for its region and a new renewable way to heat your house.

Supermarket giant vows to source all its electricity from renewables by 2025:

Coles, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, has pledged to source its electricity from renewable sources across all of its brands by 2025. This comes after the chain announced the signing of another agreement to buy clean power from a Victorian wind farm. This move follows previous measures enacted by rivals Woolworths and Aldi. All three supermarket chains in the country will be sourcing electricity from renewables by this date at the latest.

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Coles Group’s chief executive, Steven Cain, said “there is no doubt that in our shareholder meetings people are asking more questions about sustainability because investors around the world – are asking, are we putting our money to work in a responsible fashion”. Other moves Cain said are included involve adding more doors to fridges to improve efficiency, replacing climate warming refrigeration gases, and improving logistics so that vehicles returning to distribution centres do not return empty but pick up supplies on the way. He also hinted that their fleet of vehicles will soon become all electric.

Coles Group doesn’t just include supermarkets, but also Coles Express outlets and the alcohol retailers Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice Liquor. These actions are in line with the company’s plans to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


Its biggest rival, Woolworths Group, said last November that all of its electricity would come from renewable sources by 2025 as well and set the benchmark for other Australian supermarket chains. Aldi is also buying enough renewable energy certificates to cover its electricity use from this year. Despite political parties clashing over renewable energies and fossil fuels in the country, corporations are taking measures into their own hands. 

David Ritter, the chief executive of Greenpeace, an environmental group based in Sydney, said the country could not underestimate the significance of the announcements made by these businesses. He added “it says very clearly that big businesses trust their profitability and corporate reputation with clean energy” and “shows that we have a federal government that is isolated from where the mainstream of corporate Australia is heading”.

Insurer AIA agrees to pull out of all coal investments by 2028:

Hong-Kong based insurance company AIA has bowed to pressure from campaigners and announced it will pull out of all coal investments by 2028. AIA, the largest independent and publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group has made the pledge recently in its recent sustainability report. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the company has $326bn of funds with $6bn currently in coal and coal-fired power assets. 

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Campaigners had previously attacked the company’s climate credentials when it became the kit sponsor for the notable football club Tottenham Hotspur a few years ago. Their sponsorship and subsequent publicity in Europe led many environmentalists to criticise the company’s track record with fossil fuel investment. Many thought that the company’s sponsorship was a stain on the football club’s reputation and campaigned for AIA to divest from fossil fuels. It is the first major insurance company in Asia to promise a withdrawal of coal investments. Lucie Pinson, the executive director of the Paris-based NGO Reclaim Finance, said: “If the approach is as comprehensive as it sounds, we will celebrate it as a bold signal to Asian institutional investors. Coal constitutes a plague for the climate and for public health – it’s high time for Asian financial institutions to catch up with their international peers, ditch coal and drive the transition towards a sustainable future.” 

Coal business is beginning to see a dramatic decline as large insurers, especially in Europe, are no longer providing cover for new coal projects. Controversial coal projects around the world, such as the Adani Group’s planned Carmichael coalmine in Australia are struggling to obtain insurance cover. However, there are still many companies in regions such as the US and Asia that are still currently insuring coal, and it has also been noted that the global insurance industry has failed to take comprehensive action on oil and gas.

First microwave-powered home boiler could help cut emissions:

Heat Wayv is building the world’s first microwave-powered boiler that can provide a straightforward, zero-emissions replacement for gas boilers. The boiler will use electricity to heat water which can then be pumped through existing radiators and to taps and showers and baths. The prototypes are currently being built and are expected to trial in homes by the end of 2022. A unit for a three or four bedroom home would cost around the same as a new gas boiler.

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Heating is one of the most difficult obstacles in the drive for countries to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Gas boilers are expected to be phased out in many countries around the world by the mid 2030s. Governments have been encouraging the installation of heat pumps, which are extremely efficient to run but have high upfront costs, can be disruptive to install and are not suitable for all types of property. Hydrogen energy has also been suggested as a replacement for gas, but most experts think the supply of low-carbon hydrogen will be limited and expensive for home heating.

The Heat Wayv unit is the same size as a gas boiler and has 10 metres of piped coil insides which is heated at multiple points. The microwaves are produced by solid state components, which can be turned specifically to heat water and better targeted than the magnetrons used in microwave ovens. The electricity load will be about the same as an electric oven. The company says the unit is 84% efficient in converting electricity into hot water, with another 12% of waste heat being recycled.

Tune in next week for another round of sustainability news from around the world.