Brown Thomas Arnotts, “holding up progress in Dublin for years”, promises to cut emissions

High-end retailer Brown Thomas Arnotts, which has a long history of objecting to pedestrianisation, cycle paths and bus priority measures, said that it “…always put sustainability at the heart of everything we do…”.

Brown Thomas Arnotts is the company name for a more formal joining up of the two department stores. Both stores for some time have been owned by companies controlled by the Weston family.

The retailers combined have directly or in-directly objected a large number of sustainable transport projects, including the College Green Plaza, the Liffey Street pedestrianisation, different versions of the Liffey Cycle Route, COVID mobility measures, the College Green Bus Gate, the City Centre Transport Study, and the South William Street pedestrianisation, which has been watered down to only a few metres.

Often the objection to projects has come in-directly via groups like the Dublin City Centre Traders Alliance which represented the company.

The Weston family also owns high-end retailers in other cities such as De Bijenkorf, which is associated with slowing progressing on reducing car access in the very centre of Amsterdam, and Holt Renfrew in Canada which is represented by the Bloor-Yorkville BIA business group which has objected to a cycle path outside the store.

According to The Irish Times, Brown Thomas Arnotts managing director Donald McDonald said the company is committed to imagining and creating a sustainable future for its people, customers, community and the planet. The company is promising to cut its emissions by 50% by 2030.

The Irish Times quoted McDonald: “As a business in existence for more than 175 years we have always put sustainability at the heart of everything we do…”

He added that the company’s aim is to “cultivate a retail environment that is conscious, considerate and community centred, while all the time protecting our planet”.

However, the news promoted the Dublin Commuter Coalition to say the company is “holding up progress in Dublin for years”.

Dublin Commuter Coalition said: “Brown Thomas Arnotts commits to a 50% cut in emissions by 2030. BT and Arnotts have continually opposed sustainable transport measures which negatively impact multi-storey car parks in Dublin city. They have been holding up progress in Dublin for years.”

They added: “Either they or the Dublin City Centre Traders Alliance (a car parking business conglomerate which claims to represent them) have opposed to: College Green Plaza, Liffey Street pedestrianisation, Interim Liffey Cycle Route, COVID mobility measures to name but a few.”

The news was also met with scepticism by others, including Graeme McQueen, who was until recently the head of communication for a Dublin business group.

He said: “As great as it is to see Brown Thomas and Arnotts talking about decarbonising, worth noting that they remain two of the biggest opponents to pedestrianisation and reduced car use in Dublin. The two simply don’t square.”

“These are lovely words from Brown Thomas Arnotts’ CEO. However, they seem pretty hollow when you consider their strong opposition to projects such as the pedestrianisation of Liffey St, College Green, area around Grafton St etc. A sign of more progressive attitudes? Let’s hope so.”

Cian Ginty
I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

1 COMMENT

  1. Do I detect a note of skepticism? But they are discontinuing beauty products containing glitter from next month so clearly this is no exercise in cynical greenwashing.

    No doubt certain BT customers, much like certain Sandymount residents, of which two groups there may well be an overlap, may like to congratulate themselves on their green credentials when it comes to the purchase of glitter-containing beauty products, choice of hybrid SUV’s or the renewable energy credentials of their favourite high-end shopping emporium, so long as it gives them a warm glow and ultimately there is absolutely no discernible inconvenience to their lifestyle choices.

    It is a real shame that many of the wealthiest in society are happy to maintain a pretense of eco-respectability, but through their rigid commitment to their own self-interest continue to be among the single biggest impediments to progress when it matters.

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