Resource Use

Courtauld Commitment 2025: Food industry targets 20 per cent waste reduction

Food industry targets 20 per cent waste reduction
The next stage of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)’s Courtauld Commitment programme will challenge the UK food and drinks industry to reduce its resource intensity by 20 per cent in 10 years, saving an estimated £20 billion.

The Courtauld Commitment 2025, announced today (15 March), already has 98 signatories from UK food retailers, brands, food service companies, trade bodies and local authorities, which WRAP says represents 93 per cent of the 2016 UK market share.

The commitment, the latest delivered on behalf of the UK government and the devolved administrations, includes three ‘ambitious’ targets: a 20 per cent reduction in food and drink waste, a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity of food and drink, and a reduction in impact associated with water use in the supply chain.

WRAP estimates that meeting the commitment targets will deliver £20 billion worth of savings to the UK economy, the majority of which ‘will be enjoyed by individuals’. It aims to help the UK reach the objectives of COP21 and deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve household and retail waste by 2030, just five years after the commitment term ends.

Research from WRAP shows that for every two tonnes of food eaten in the UK, another tonne is wasted. The organisation also predicts that, by 2050, food supply could contribute two degrees Celsius to global warming. The new proposals therefore work along the entire food chain to reduce the environmental impact of food and drink, ‘from farm to fork and beyond’.

This is the first time that WRAP is bringing in the farming sector and local authorities into this kind of agreement. The aim is that they will work together to identify new actions and opportunities to save resources, which can be shared across the entire supply chain.

Signatories include major UK retailers such as M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, and brands including Coca-Cola Enterprises, Nestlé and Unilever. Local authorities representing 42 per cent of the UK’s population have already signed the commitment, including the London Waste and Recycling Board, while a range of trade and sector organisations (including the British Retail Consortium, the Sustainable Restaurant Association and the Food & Drink Federation) and food services companies (including KFC, Pizza Hut and Bidvest) have also signed up.

Driving best practice

Through the commitment, WRAP hopes to drive best practice to the way food and drink is produced, sold and consumed in the UK. It says that ‘signatories will work together with WRAP to identify new actions and opportunities to save resources which can be shared across the entire supply chain, to make the whole system more sustainable and resilient to supply chain disruptions’.

WRAP aims to work directly with industry and other stakeholders to support actions under four main areas:

  • embedding sustainable principles and practices into the design, buying and sourcing of food
  • optimising resource efficiency throughout entire supply chains to help produce more goods using fewer resources
  • to influence behaviours around consumption and reduce waste in the home
  • to find innovative ways to make the best use of surplus and waste food

WRAP says that local authorities and trade bodies will be ‘vital’ in engaging residents both within and outside of the home and raising awareness to a wider range of businesses outside of the main signatory base.

Progress of the commitment will be reported to reflect the combined impact across the entire food system. Reports on progress will be issued in ‘milestone years’ (2018, 2021 and 2025), while further data on signatory achievements will be reported annually.

Food industry targets 20 per cent waste reduction

‘New era for our food industry’

Dr Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems, at WRAP said: “The pressures of resource scarcity, population growth and our changing climate will have profound effects on our food supply in the coming years, and business efficiency. To safeguard UK food we need a step-change to increase sustainable food and drink production and consumption, conserve resources and combat climate change. Courtauld 2025 will do this.

“Collaboration has never been more important, which is why I want to thank the businesses and organisations that have committed to taking action. This is an ambitious undertaking and having key signatories on board on day one puts us in a strong position at the start of this new era for our food industry.”

Resources Minister Rory Stewart added: “Food waste – at any stage from farm to the house – is something we should avoid. It wastes precious water and resources. Under the last framework we have already reduced food waste in the supply chain by 10 per cent. And this teamwork and leadership should allow us to go much further.”

Speaking on behalf of Scotland, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, said: “The Scottish Government has set a target to reduce food waste by a third by 2025 – the first of its kind in Europe. Courtauld 2025 will complement ongoing work by Zero Waste Scotland and the food and drink industry here in Scotland to reduce food waste and develop a more circular economy.”

Food waste campaign welcomes action on farm waste

The food waste campaign Stop the Rot has praised the new commitment for including food waste on farms, an issue highlighted by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in a BBC documentary last year, but has challenged WRAP to go further.

Martin Bowman, the campaign’s coordinator, said: “Food waste in factories and on farms are often caused by unjust retailer policies, like rejecting produce for being the wrong size and shape, incentivizing overproduction, and order cancellations. UK consumers have historically been asked to do the lion's share of tackling food waste despite being responsible for less than half of the UK’s food waste. But many supply chain businesses waste more in a day than a consumer does in a year, and this could often be avoided with simple change in supermarket policy rather than influencing millions of consumers. Courtauld 2025 including farms is thus a very welcome step, and we will be continuing to keep up pressure on the food industry to tackle food waste in the supply chain.

“We are delighted to hear that the Courtauld 2025 targets for reduction of food waste are more ambitious than previous Courtauld stages, though the 20 per cent target is not as high as the 30 per cent Stop the Rot called for. We’d like to challenge Courtauld 2025 to step up this more ambitious target, in pace with the urgent need to avert climate change.”

Courtauld background

This new commitment follows on from the Courtauld Commitment 3 (CC3), which ran from 2013 to December last year. Funded by all four UK governments, CC3 was the third phase of the voluntary agreement. The agreement has faced previous criticism by campaigners, including anti-food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart, who told Resource the food waste targets were ‘woefully insufficient’ and ‘preposterously unambitious’.

Moreover, the first-year results for CC3 showed a 0.1 per cent increase in manufacturing and retail waste, despite the target to decrease it by three per cent. The second interim report showed something of a turnaround – exceeding the target by 0.2 per cent for waste reduction and also reducing CO2 emissions by a further 3.9 per cent.

The second phase of the Commitment (Courtauld Commitment 2), which ran from 2010 to 2012, reportedly delivered £3.1 billion in cost savings due to action to reduce food and packaging waste.

More information on the Courtauld Commitment 2025 and a full list of signatories can be found at WRAP’s website.