Corporate Social Responsibility
Debenhams Sustainability Report

Author Archive


We have reported our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for our UK, Irish and Danish operations since 2008. Since then, our footprint boundary has evolved to include areas such as other international offices, packaging, production of hangers, and manufacture of catalogues, brochures and direct mail. This section provides a breakdown of our GHG emissions for this year.

With the support of Ricardo Energy & Environment, we have applied the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard (revised edition), and the UK Government Conversion Factors for Company Reporting, 2018, to calculate our carbon emissions. Our annual reporting year is 3rd September 2017 to 1st September 2018 and we report GHG emissions in line with this period. For the last two years we followed the GHG Protocol’s new, Scope 2 emissions reporting guidance and used two different quantification methods: location-based and market-based. We have followed this latest methodology again this year . Scope 2 emissions using the market-based method are lower than with the location-based approach, mainly because of our decision to purchase 100% renewable electricity in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

This year, our overall carbon footprint has decreased by 21%, from 177,611 tonnes CO2e in 2017 to 140,352 tonnes CO2e this year (using the location-based approach). Table 1 below provides a breakdown of these figures.

Table 1: Absolute GHG emissions from Scope 1, 2 and 3 shown in tonnes CO2e








Scope 1







Scope 2 (Location-based)







Scope 2 (market-based)

Not calculated; market-based method was introduced in FY2016




Scope 3














*Total emissions calculated using the location-based Scope 2 emissions figure.

Emissions data are made more meaningful when compared to a core business variable. We have used intensity ratios, alongside the absolute figures provided above, to report our GHG emissions in the context of our annual turnover and premises floor area.

Table 2 shows the total annual turnover and floor area for the whole business. The total absolute emissions are then divided by these figures to provide tonnes of CO2e per million pounds of turnover and tonnes of CO2e per m2 of floor area, respectively, as shown in Table 3.

These tables show that the tonnes CO2e for both intensity metrics have also decreased.

Table 2 Data used for intensity measurements

FY2013 FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Turnover (£m) 2,777 2,824 2,860 2,939 2,954 2,900
Total floor area** (m2) 1,808,398 1,850,874 1,867,291 1,876,533 1,873,568 1,904,937***

**This total floor area included back of store, offices and distribution centres.

***For FY2018 the accuracy of the calculation of the back of store areas was improved, causing an increase in total floor area.

Table 3 Assessment of absolute footprint emissions

FY2013 FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Absolute Emissions (tCO2e) 174,080 193,365 190,930 204,136* 177,611* 140,352*
Absolute tCO2e / £m Turnover 63 68 67 69 60 48
Absolute tCO2e / m2 0.096 0.104 0.102 0.109 0.095 0.074

*Total emissions calculated using the location-based Scope 2 emissions figure.

The carbon footprint has decreased across all three scopes this year compared to 2017. The main reasons for the decrease in the overall emissions is due to a reduction in: electricity consumption, including the associated grid losses (32% reduction); air imports (27% reduction).

We will continue to conduct projects that will reduce our footprint and environmental impacts. We are committed to continuously improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and operations as seen by a reduction in this year’s carbon footprint. In FY2018; we invested over £3 million and retrofitted LED lighting in 12 stores. These projects have not only delivered excellent results in reducing energy use, but have also led to a more comfortable customer environment. For 2019 we will be focussing on energy savings that can be achieved through behavioural change, primarily through the use of energy alerts that will be sent to store management teams if they breach energy thresholds (based on historic use).

We have a carbon reduction target to reduce group-wide Scope 1 and 2 absolute operational CO2e emissions by 10% by 2020 against our 2007/08 baseline. The FY2018 Scope 1 and Scope 2 total emissions have reduced by 47% compared to the Scope 1 and 2 CO2e emissions in FY2008. This suggests that if the reduction continues, or remains stable, we will meet our target by 2020.

Overall, the progress on improvement and monitoring management remains stringent and during the next few years towards 2020, we aim to continue to positively contribute to the Better Retail Climate as part of our drive to save energy and protect the environment.


1 The location-based method reflects the average emissions intensity of grids on which energy consumption occurs, whereas the market-based method reflects emissions from the electricity that companies have chosen in the market (or their lack of choice).

Great place to work

Attract – keep – grow

Our strategy is to attract, keep and grow the very best in our industry and to unlock the potential in each and every one of our people worldwide.

Debenhams directly employs around 30,000 people in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong and Denmark with thousands more in our franchise stores worldwide. We’re continuing to grow and each year we create more jobs as we open new stores.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a move to balance internal promotions, with ensuring that we are hiring in the right skills and experience that’s required in the business.

Our policy of developing our people and filling management vacancies through internal promotion is working well.

We have also worked in partnership with Capita to set up a leading-edge Call Centre in Leeds that will be able to scale with us as our multi-channel business continues to grow.

Your Voice

Our relationship with our employees is crucial to our success as a business. In 2016 over 80% of our employees participated in the second annual ‘ Your Voice ‘ engagement survey. The results of the survey make it very clear that if you work at Debenhams it really is all about the people and the pride in doing a good job. The commitment and loyalty of our team are evidenced by the long service of many of our employees, some of whom have dedicated more than 40 years to the Company.

Listening to our customers

We put our customers at the heart of everything we do and actively seek their views. We see this as an integral part of our plans for a sustainable customer base. We connect online and face-to-face with thousands of customers in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Denmark.

Up close

Debenhams’ Customer Closeness programme gives senior management the unique opportunity to collect constructive criticism, advice and insights directly from shoppers.

In addition, Customer closeness sessions allow senior executives to meet eight to ten customers at a time to talk to them about their experiences of shopping at Debenhams. “Customer Closeness days highlight a number of local and national opportunities that the senior management are actively discussing,” says Richard Cristofoli, Marketing Director.

We also have a customer panel of 15,000 customers to whom we send weekly surveys on a variety of topics.

Customer Voice

Customer Voice is our ongoing multi-channel customer satisfaction survey. It allows all customers to share feedback on any part of their shopping experience with Debenhams – such as personal shopper, delivery to home or collect from store. The short survey is easy to complete for customers.

We also operate an online website satisfaction survey. Our single customer view system also allows us to survey specific customers based on their purchase history. We communicate feedback from the surveys to the relevant directors and managers to help them improve the shopping experience in their stores and recognise excellent customer service when their staff receive praise from customers.


Country wide

Global Sourcing

We require our suppliers and factories to ensure that their employees are paid a fair wage, treated with dignity, are not discriminated against or exploited in any way and have a safe working environment. The requirements are stated in our supplier code of conduct embedded into our policies, incorporated into the suppliers’ conditions of trading, which they are required to adhere to at all times.

We have two overseas offices based in Hong Kong and Bangladesh working with the London sourcing, ethical compliance and quality assurance teams. The Bangladesh office was established some two years ago to support our strategy to increase direct sourcing, enabling us to have more direct open working relationships, more flexibility, control and transparency, as well as benefitting from improved margins. It is working well and expanding to meet additional demand. We are a signatory to the Accord and support the remediation process to ensure building and fire safety, which our Bangladesh Ethical Compliance team manage in collaboration with the UK Ethical Compliance team. In India we have an established relationship with our sourcing partner, which has its own team dedicated to Debenhams, managing ethical compliance and quality assurance with our own sourcing team.

Due to our international and e-commerce growth the Corporate Responsibility team was increased at the start of the new financial year, to support this area of the business to ensure compliance with international legislation and regulation. The team also have dedicated resource for Reach legislation and by the end of calendar 2015 we expect to publish a revised environmental and chemical

Right product, right country

We buy from around the world using a strategy of ‘right product, right country’. Debenhams, ethical sustainable sourcing is essential to our business with focus on potential risks to the business, such as geographical, social, political, economic and environmental considerations, which are captured and managed through the company risk register. We have a good, established and reliable supply base. When looking at new countries and regions, we often work with existing suppliers who know us and the local region, which can help support and manage risk.

Country sourcing 2015

Sustainable sourcing is a complex operation. With the expertise and knowledge we have, with a strong reliable supply base, we can switch between suppliers and factories to manage risk and increase competitive advantage as necessary. For example, rising labour costs in China have led us to increase manufacturing in other countries, such as Cambodia.

Closer to home

Manufacturing closer to home – i.e. using European suppliers can reduce lead times significantly, giving us more flexibility to test a new colour or respond more quickly to consumer trends. We will continue to run pilots in particular women’s wear, to assess the benefits of speed to market and the environmental impact and cost benefits of working with more European suppliers.

Keeping goods flowing

Ship Direct Update

MCC is our first overseas distribution hub, in Singapore, which opened in April 2013. It now services our Middle East franchise partner with direct shipments of more than 65% of their total stock package. Most of our Asian origin stock now ships directly from point of manufacture via Singapore into the relevant Middle East market. This has brought about both significant cost savings and improved lead time (‘quicker to market’) benefits our partners as well as improvements in Co2 emissions and less travel distance. It will also add to our DC (Distribution Centre) sustainability project by diverting volume from our prime UK DC’s.

We have now introduced three more of our Far East franchise partners (Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines) to be served from this Singapore hub who are now equally benefiting from this initiative. Our plans are to extend on the use of this facility by adding more franchise partners who are in the region to take advantage of the savings.

The Singapore hub is a 70k sqft shared user facility operated by our 3rd party logistic partners Uniserve. We have a dedicated space of 20k sqft with options to expand as the business dictates and we currently process more than 5 million units per year through the facility.

Containers by Train to Sherburn

We have now contracted with rail freight providers to move as many containers as possible by rail from Southampton and Tilbury ports of arrival to our Sherburn DC. This has worked successfully with minimal impact to our product intake and lead times whilst at the same time generating significant cost savings as well as reducing Co2 emissions, which have been captured in our 2014 Carbon Emissions report.

Nearly 11% of all container deliveries were made using this method during 2013/14 removing over 500 (553) vehicle deliveries from the road.

We are now also investigating using feeder vessels into Teesport and using rail options for the onward leg which will increase on the above benefits.



Following the success of being awarded a Green Apple in 2016, Debenhams have continued to focus on best practice and ongoing improvements of their waste management plan.

The re-launch of the recycling programme has been scheduled for September 2017 and focuses on, improved communications to stores and simplicity in processes. Combined with the ongoing support of New Star Environmental, Debenhams continues to remain focused on engaging with all stores to ensure that waste is managed responsibly.


Our supply chain partners have continued to invest in their infrastructures, which goes a long way towards ensuring that Debenhams consistently diverts more waste away from landfill whilst maintaining high service levels.

With the increased number of vehicles now able to weigh bins, we can identify locations where containers are above average weights and work with the stores to reduce the volumes following the waste hierarchy.

2018 Achievements

97% of the waste produced diverted away from Landfill.

6.3 Tonnes of FDG were donated to the Salvation Army

6.9 Tonnes of samples donated to TRAID within our support centres.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle


This year we have introduced 100% recycled bags for Life: 100% recyclable e-commerce mailing bags and all e-commerce cartons are made from 75% recycled content and are 100% recyclable.


We have standardised our hangers, reducing the number of types from 1000 to 50. On average 7 trailers of hangers, which is roughly 600,000 hangers are recycled from Debenhams each week. This generates approximately 16 tonnes of recycled material per week. Recycled material is then used to manufacture new hangers, fully closing the loop.


Compliance with Government targets – 30% recycled material to be used in all plastic packaging

Tailored Solutions

New Star Environmental, a recycling led waste management company, our partners since March 2012. With their experience and expertise, they manage contracts with a number of regional suppliers to ensure our sites have the most flexible and eco-efficient solutions available locally.

Carrier Bags

In line with compulsory legislation, carrier bag charges were introduced by the governments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since the introduction of the charge, Debenhams has donated all proceeds from the sale of single-use carrier bags to our nominated charities. The company continues to encourage customers to reduce the consumption of single-use bags and now only offers one single-use carrier bag option.

The carrier bag charge implemented in Northern Ireland is payable, as required, direct to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). Debenhams provides its customers with the option of purchasing a ‘Bag for Life’ that is available in two sizes; medium and large, each bag carries a charge of 10p. Customers can exchange their Bag for Life for free at any Debenhams store when they become worn or damaged.

English Carrier Bag Data

  7th April 2016 – 6th April 2017 7th of April 2017 – 6th April 2018
Single-Use Bags Issued 3,876,495 bags 1,507,283 bags
Number of Bags for Life Sold 11,132,476 bags 11,712,705 bags
Single-Use Bag Income (Gross Proceeds) £193,824.75 £76,276.95
Deductions £0.00 £0.00
Net Proceeds (with VAT deducted) £161,520.63 £63,564.13
Total Amount Donated to Good Causes £161,520.63 £63,564.13
Details of Charitable Good Causes Debenhams Foundation – Charity Debenhams Foundation – Charity


Welsh Carrier Bag Data

  7th April 2016 – 6th April 2017* 7th of April 2017 – 6th April 2018
Single-Use Bags Issued 3,876,495 bags 165,018 bags
Number of Bags for Life Sold 11,132,476 bags 681,974 bags
Single-Use Bag Income (Gross Proceeds) £193,824.75 £8,325.45
Deductions £0.00 £0.00
Net Proceeds (with VAT deducted) £161,520.63 £6,937.88
Total Amount Donated to Good Causes £161,520.63 £6,937.88
Details of Charitable Good Causes Charities including those within the Debenhams Foundation and others. Charities including those within the Debenhams Foundation and others.

*Due to system limitations, figures could not be split per location between 7th April 2016 – 6th April 2017. Systems were subsequently updated the following year.