Peatlands are one of the UK’s key ecosystems and, if managed correctly, can support the nation’s ambition to achieve net zero. We’ve already switched to peat-free compost across all our stores but we know there is more to do.

This year we’re working with climate and sustainable development expert, ClimateCare and Bell’s whisky to support the restoration of Scottish peatlands in Ayrshire and Islay. Bell’s support is part of their ‘Give Back With a Bell’s’ campaign which is donating £100,000 to support a variety of community good causes across the UK.

Alongside our 10-point climate action plan, this is one of the ways we can work with our partners to support UK climate action.

Supporting our planet

Peatlands, which make up around 12% of the UK’s land area, have a valuable role to play in supporting the planet’s ecosystems1. Plants growing on healthy peatland capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and their slow rate of decomposition keeps the carbon locked up when they die. In the UK alone, an estimated 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in peatlands1. They also reduce flood risk and support biodiversity.

But, over the years, peatlands have been badly managed. Whether drained for farming or the peat extracted for use in horticulture, human intervention has left much of the UK’s peatlands in a poor state.

Unfortunately, this affects the way peatlands deal with carbon. Rather than locking it in, a mismanaged peatland will release the carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide emissions. The effects of this are devastating. A study2 estimates that, without any intervention, greenhouse gas emissions from UK peatlands could exceed the equivalent of 20 million tonnes of CO2 each year1.

Peatland restoration project

Protecting and restoring peatlands can reverse this dangerous trend, transforming them back into valuable carbon sinks. In 2020 we supported early stage-development of a peatland restoration project in Ayrshire with some of our whisky partners.

We’re now building on this with Bell’s and ClimateCare. The additional support will extend restoration activities beyond the Ayrshire project area to another site on the Isle of Islay. Restoration works include repairing eroded areas, installation of dams, and clearing Sitka scrub growth, which takes water from the peat.

These works will help peatland at both sites deliver quantifiable carbon emission reductions over each project’s lifespan, verified and validated under the UK’s Peatland Code.

Far-reaching benefits

Alongside reducing carbon emissions, the projects also deliver a host of additional benefits. These include the restoration and protection of natural habitats for wildlife, including many rare insect and bird species; improving water quality; and reducing flood risk by regulating water flow.

We’re excited about these joint projects, and look forward to seeing their progress over the coming years.

Alastair Pattrick

Food  Sustainable Sourcing Manager