With only four months until COP26, the UK has taken a bold step forward in reducing the impact food has on the natural world with a number of ambitious changes to its ground-breaking Courtauld Commitment voluntary agreement.
The Commitment is already helping the UK food and drink sector to deliver against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 to halve food waste. It will now also be central in achieving and monitoring progress towards Net Zero ambitions and convening action on water stewardship in at-risk food sourcing locations.
Foremost is the first industry-wide collaborative action towards a 50% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with food and drink consumed in the UK by 2030 – a critical milestone towards longer term net zero objectives. A pioneering focus on measuring carbon along the entire food chain and acting on the results is being driven by environmental charity WRAP. The charity delivers the Courtauld Commitment, and brought together more than 80 businesses, trade bodies, NGOs, government departments and other organisations to set the inspiring new GHG targets through the practical framework of the Courtauld Commitment.
The pioneering work of the Courtauld Commitment now aligns seamlessly with the wider global target on food waste reduction under the UN’s SDG 12.3. To reflect this synergy more clearly, a new moniker for the world’s most ambitious voluntary agreement for sustainable food means it becomes the ‘Courtauld Commitment 2030’.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 launched in 2015 and was then a ten-year programme, to complete in 2025. Today, the agreement has strong membership with more than 90% of UK food retail as well as food manufacturers, the hospitality & food service sector, farmers & growers, redistributors and charities, trade bodies, local authorities and groups and businesses from across the lifecycle of food.
The programme continues to spearhead co-ordinated activity across the whole food system and provide expertise and a non-competitive space to convene collaborative activities, drive sector-wide change and monitor and measure progress against science-based targets. The core Courtauld Commitment targets have been recast to reflect the extension and expansion of the agreement, as follows:
- A 50% absolute reduction in GHG emissions associated with food and drink consumed in the UK by 2030, against a 2015 baseline.
- A 50% per capita reduction in food waste by 2030 vs the UK 2007 baseline.
- To achieve sustainable water management (quality and quantity) in the top 20 most important product and ingredient sourcing areas in the UK and overseas – covering 50% of product ingredients deemed ‘at risk’ from water insecurity.
Extending the Courtauld food waste prevention target to 2030, and aligning it with the global target to halve food waste, will mean that:
- UK food waste will be 800,000 tonnes lower in 2030 compared to 2025, saving food worth £2.4 billion a year by 2030 and the equivalent of 1.9 billion meals
- Between 2025 and 2030 the extended and more ambitious food waste target will result in 2,600,000 tonnes (2.6 million tonnes) of food waste being avoided over the five-year period; saving £8 billion of food from being wasted, and the equivalent of 6.2 billion meals
Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO, said “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved under the Courtauld Commitment 2025 during the last 5 years. But with COP26 fast approaching, the new Courtauld Commitment 2030 has been refreshed to build on this success and meet newer demands of climate action head on. Courtauld has always addressed the most significant sustainability challenges that the sector faces – carbon reduction, improved water stewardship and food waste. Climate change is the biggest threat we all face, and fixing food is vital. I believe Courtauld has never been more important as only fundamental change can reset our fragile global food system into a sustainable model that will feed us in the future, and cut greenhouse gas emissions towards Net Zero.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, Defra said: “Our food and drink industry has a hugely important role to play in addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and sustainability.
“The UK is a world leader in combating food waste, which fell by 480,000 tonnes between 2015 and 2018. But we must go further; not only by stopping more food being chucked away needlessly, but also by slashing the resources consumed by the sector, to help us achieve Net Zero.
“The Courtauld agreement has been a great success in bringing organisations together to create a more sustainable industry, and these new, far-reaching goals for 2030 will take this to the next level as we head into COP26.”
Government Food Waste Champion, Ben Elliot, said: “From farm to fork, our food and drink sector is hugely reliant on natural resources, which means it also has a significant environmental footprint.
“Not only do we need to drastically reduce our food waste both before and after it has been plated up, but we also need to reduce the reliance on those resources from the outset to better protect the planet.
“The Courtauld agreement is central to achieving this vision. I strongly encourage food and drink businesses to get behind these ambitious targets for 2030 to reaffirm the sector’s commitment to creating a greener and more sustainable food system.”
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, Scotland said: “This year as we look ahead to COP26 it’s more important than ever that we work together to tackle food waste and its role in the climate crisis. Collaboration is essential for reducing food waste and it’s great that the Courtauld Commitment and WRAP are bringing people together to maximise their impact. By connecting governments, manufacturers and retailers to share knowledge, experience and successes, the Courtauld Commitment 2030 will play in a big role in helping Scotland deliver our ambitious food waste target.”
To enable the benefits of the Courtauld Commitment 2030 to be accessible to smaller businesses, WRAP has introduced an Associate Membership model. Now small and medium-sized enterprises can access a dedicated online platform with resources to help implement strategies towards the core targets on carbon, water stewardship and food waste prevention. Widening the signatory base will help increase impact across all targets, meaning Courtauld can go further, faster.
Courtauld Commitment Annual Report
The Courtauld Commitment Annual Report, published today, highlights many of the activities of the last year, including:
- The inaugural Food Waste Action Week, when the food and drink sector joined forces with Love Food Hate Waste to drive home the message that Wasting Food Feeds Climate Change.
- The single largest annual increase in surplus food redistribution since 2015, with WRAP recording a 45% increase in UK redistribution in 2020 vs 2019. More than 92,000 tonnes of food, worth £280 million and the equivalent of 220 million meals, were redistributed in one year.
- Almost £7 million of grants awarded to redistribution organisations in England.
- A steep rise in the number of businesses implementing ‘Target, Measure, Act’ in their operations – up to 249 businesses.
- The formation of an ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target for UK food.
- Six pilot water stewardship projects gaining momentum.
Tesco CEO Ken Murphy said: “It is unacceptable that good food goes to waste when there are so many people going hungry. In addition, food waste is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to loss of biodiversity. We’re helping to address this important issue in lots of ways. For many years, we have been working as a part of The Courtauld Commitment to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 and halve global food waste by 2030. We also know that what gets measured gets managed, so we urge all retailers and suppliers to disclose their levels of waste so we can tackle this issue together in an open and transparent way.”
Nestlé UK&I Head of Value Chain Sustainability, Andrew Griffiths, said: “Food waste is a critical issue, both in terms of its environmental and social impact. Nestle UK & Ireland has been a member of WRAP’s Courtauld commitment on food waste since its inception and has also committed to both the UK Food Waste Roadmap and SDG 12.3, targeting a 50% reduction in our operational food waste by 2030 and supporting both our suppliers and consumers to take action on food waste.
“We have worked closely with our partners, including Company Shop, Fareshare and FoodCloud to develop and apply a food waste audit process across our sites. This process has helped us to identify and address causes of food waste within our processes and increase opportunities to redistribute surplus food. Since 2016, we have reduced our operational food waste by 41% and in 2020 alone, redistributed the equivalent of more than 2.6 million meals.”
Nadiya Catel-Arutyunova, Sustainability Policy Adviser, British Retail Consortium said: “The Courtauld Commitment has proved highly effective at reducing food waste and supporting our economy’s transition to net zero. Retailers have undertaken major efforts to cut the waste in stores and engage their customers to reduce waste in their homes. Preventing waste is a critical priority and BRC members are working closely with redistribution organisations and charities across the UK to ensure that any useable surplus food goes to the people who need it most.”
Jim Brisby, Chief Commercial Officer of Cranswick, said: “There is no doubting the scale of change required in the food industry and we are fully supportive of the new Courtauld 2030 targets announced today. We have been involved with WRAP and the Courtauld Agreement since 2018 and are proud to continue to support key initiatives such as the “Meat in a Net Zero World” project, supporting industry wide initiatives to support the reduction of GHGs. This has allowed us to help shape the roadmap required for the industry with other businesses and provides a consistent framework for us to commit to.”