Courtauld 2030 – What are supermarkets, food manufacturers and others in the food industry doing to prevent food waste and reduce the environmental impact of the food we consume?
August 11, 2021
You may have seen, and hopefully participated in, the first national Food Waste Action week earlier this year. The campaign highlighted the link between wasting food and climate change.
In summary, if we are to avoid the worst consequences of a 2oC+ rise in global temperatures, and the associated climate change one of the things we need to do is to reduce food waste in the UK by at least 50% (against a 2007 baseline) by 2030.
In the UK, 70% of the food wasted each year comes from our homes, and so making the effort to reduce the amount of food wasted in your household is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. You can find out more about household food waste and how to reduce it here: https://www.lesswaste.org.uk/2021/03/01/take-action-against-food-waste-in-your-home/.
Food waste contributes 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, but that’s only part of the story. The true environmental impact of our food goes beyond how much is wasted at the end of it’s life. More than one-third (34%) of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way food is produced, processed and packaged (https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086822).
As such the farmers, food retailers, manufacturers and distributors who produce, process, package and get food into our homes have a critical role to play in reducing the environmental impact of our food and the systems and supply chains that produce it and get it to our plates.
If you are amongst the 80% of UK citizens who are concerned about climate change, and who are actively making an effort to reduce your impact upon the environment you’ll probably be wondering what’s being done about it.
Since 2005 many major food manufacturers, retailers and distributors in the UK have voluntarily worked together in partnership with the environmental charity WRAP to reduce the environmental impact of food in the UK. The collaboration is known at the Courtauld commitment. The early days of the commitment saw participants trial innovative ways of reducing food waste in their systems and supply chains, and importantly encouraged an increasing number of participants to publicly report on the environmental impact of their business activities.
In 2015 the role of the Courtauld agreement was expanded to incorporate shared targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions alongside those for food waste. Leicestershire County Council became a signatory of the Courtauld commitment that year, giving Leicestershire residents a voice in the collaborative work and the opportunity to influence and support others across the entire food chain to deliver changes which we cannot achieve individually. This compliements the council’s ongoing work to reduce household food waste across Leicestershire via its work with Love Food Hate Waste, as part of its wider operations via the Leicestershire environment strategy, which has, for example, seen food waste collections introduced at the County Hall canteen, and Leicestershires food charter which aims amongst other things to reduce the environmental impact of food in Leicestershie.
Between 2015 and 2018 the collaborative approach helped to reduce food waste and associated greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 7%. Today, the Courtauld commitment is supported by 90% of UK food retaileors as well as food manufacturers, the hospitality & food service sector, farmers & growers, redistributors and charities, trade bodies, local authorities (including Leicestershire County Council) and groups and businesses from across the lifecycle of food. This makes the Courtauld commitment a world leading initiative for reducing the environmental impact of food on a national and international scale. However, it must be recognised that we are living through a climate emergency and more needs to be done.
On July 19th 2021, four months prior to the UK hosting the United Nations climate change conference, COP26, WRAP have announced a raft of more ambitious targets for Courtauld signatories, inviting them to commit to further reduce the environmental impact of food in the UK, and across their international supply chains by 2030. These targets encompass food waste, greenhouse gas emissions and measures to ease water insecurity. Significantly, these new targets align with the United Nations Sustainable development goal 12.3 which defines the critical milestones towards achieving net zero objectives, avoiding the worst consequences of global warming and the associated climate change, and in alleviating global food insecurity and malnutrition.
As a consumer interested in whether a particular food producer (brand) or retailer is taking action to reduce the climate impact of the foods they produce or sell, you can now easily check to see if they are supporting the Courtauld agreement by visiting: https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/food-drink/initiatives/courtauld-commitment/signatories
You can also learn how to reduce food waste in your own home by visiting www.lovefoodhatewaste.com and by helping to raise awareness of the link between food waste and climate change whenever opportunity arises. You’ll find helpful information and resources at https://outofdate.org.uk/
If you are part of a business, charity or other organisation with an interest in food, and you are not currently participating in or supporting the Courtauld agreement, it’s easier than ever to get started. You can find details here: https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/food-drink/initiatives/courtauld-commitment