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Costco: The Climate Scrooge to Tiny Tim’s Future

If the U.S. supermarket industry had a Scrooge, Costco Wholesale (“Costco”) would be a top candidate, while the increasingly damaged global climate our children will be forced to live with represents “Tiny Tim”. Issaquah based Costco is the second largest retailer in the United States, the seventh largest retailer in the world, and brought in a whopping $97 billion in revenue in 2012 alone. Yet, despite being a leader in sales, Costco has done almost nothing to reduce the potent climate damaging chemicals leaking from its refrigeration systems, landing it dead last in our recent report, The Dirty Dozen: How your local supermarket is killing the planet.

HFCs are some of the world’s most potent greenhouse gases with hundreds to thousands of times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide and are commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. About 40 percent of each supermarkets carbon footprint in the U.S. is attributed to dangerous HFC gases leaking. HFC-free refrigeration technologies are readily available in the marketplace, but Costco continues to destroy the Earth’s climate by using outdated damaging technology.

Some supermarkets in the U.S. are starting to make smart choices for the climate. Delhaize Group (Food Lion, Hannaford) may bring in on average about 18 times less revenue per store than Costco, but it has already installed a CO2 system in a store in Maine. Delhaize still has a long way to go, but it has at least started the transition. Costco continues to choose to be a Scrooge when it comes to climate-friendly HFC-free refrigeration systems, ignoring the rapid and often increasingly violent changes happening in the global climate that our children will inherit.

Costco has the second highest revenue of the retailers we surveyed, yet it ranked last in our report. A company that has such high revenue and a low number of stores should be a leader in transitioning to HFC-free refrigeration, but instead Costco has not even come out with a statement on plans to phase out HFC refrigerants or even control leakage rates. Costco’s greedy practices will catch up to it soon if it continues on the same path.

As the recent G20 agreement, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and the EU F-gas partial HFC ban reveals, HFCs are increasingly coming under fire and a phase-out is imminent. An immediate investment in HFC-free refrigeration technologies will allow Costco to be a climate leader while increasing their revenue in the long-run through energy efficiency gains.

Supermarkets all over Europe, Canada, South Africa, Brazil and Japan have already realized this and have begun the transition to HFC-free refrigeration technologies. Europe has more than 4,000 supermarkets using HFC-free refrigeration technologies and even in the single Canadian province of Quebec, there are more than 50 HFC-free stores.

Hopefully the three spirits of Christmas visit Costco decision-makers and shows them the disastrous path they are taking the climate. From ozone depleting substances to super greenhouse destroying gases, refrigeration practices have played a huge role in undermining the health of our climate. By this time next year does Costco want its reputation to be in the same bad state? This Christmas, Costco should redeem itself and show the world it actually cares about the planet and not just its immense wealth by committing to go HFC-free now. C’mon Costco – Don’t let Tiny Tim die!

For more information, please contact the authors:


Danielle Gagne
HFC & Climate Policy Analyst
dgagne@eia-global.org
202-483-6621


Lowell Chandler
HFC Intern
202-483-6621

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