Supermarket giant Sainsbury's is aiming to create 50,000 jobs by 2020, double the amount of British food it sells and massively increase fairly traded products under a £1 billion sustainability plan launched today.
The firm, which has 21 million customers and almost 1,000 stores, said it was the most ambitious and far-reaching programme ever announced in the industry, setting out 20 targets covering its products, community work and employees.
Initiatives will include driving down energy use in supermarkets using carbon-saving technologies, doubling the amount of British food sold from the current £4 billion a year, increasing sales of fairly traded products to £1 billion and making sure suppliers of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy goods follow higher welfare standards.
Sainsbury's also announced that 20,000 workers will have reached 20 years of service by 2020, while at least half of its staff will have received externally accredited training.
The number of employees with shares in the business will increase by 25% and 30,000 people from disadvantaged groups will have been given work opportunities.
Chief executive Justin King said: "Given the scale of our business, we believe these 20 commitments represent the most ambitious sustainability targets in our industry.
"If we are to meet the sustainability challenges that lie ahead, it is important that companies such as Sainsbury's invest in the future right now. We do not see this plan as a luxury, it is rather an essential investment that will ensure we can continue to provide customers with quality food at fair prices, sustainably.
"This represents another step in helping our customers live well for less."
Mr King said the company had achieved most of its commitments covering corporate responsibility issues and now wanted to take a long-term view of how it conducted its business, predicting: "This will change the agenda in our industry."
Prime Minister David Cameron praised Sainsbury's, saying it was helping to create jobs and growth while tackling social and environmental challenges.
Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers Union, welcomed the planned increase in sourcing British food, saying: "This additional demand will send a really positive signal to the industry at a time when farmers are facing massive investment pressures."
Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said Sainsbury's was building on an already impressive record over the sale of fair trade goods.
Sainsbury's also announced that by 2020 it will have donated more than £400 million to charitable causes over a decade and encouraged more than 20 million children to take part in physical activity.