Third phase of the Courtauld Commitment begins

Today (9 May) marks the launch of the third phase of the Waste & Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery sector.

Fourty-five major grocery brands and retailers – including Sainsbury's plc, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Unilever UK – have pledged to reduce waste by 1.1 million tonnes by 2015 as part of the Courtauld Commitment 3, which will run until December 2015.

WRAP estimates that this would bring £1.6 billion in benefits to ‘consumers and industry’ and would result in CO2 equivalent reductions of 2.9 megatonnes – comparable to removing one million cars from the UK’s roads.

The targets for the Courtauld Commitment 3 are:

  • reducing household food and drink waste by five per cent - this represents a nine per cent reduction in real terms to counter the expected increase in food purchased;
  • reducing traditional grocery ingredient, product and packaging waste in the grocery supply chain by three per cent – signatories will have to make an eight per cent reduction in real terms to counter the expected increase in production and sales;
  • improving packaging design through the supply chain to maximise recycled content as appropriate, improving recyclability and delivering product protection to reduce food waste, whilst ensuring there is no increase in the carbon impact of packaging – signatories will have to make a three per cent reduction in real terms to counter the expected sales increase.

All targets are measured against a 2012 ‘baseline’.

The commitment, which is funded by all four UK governments, continues the work undertaken in the first and second phases of the commitment and supports the UK government's policy goal of a 'zero waste economy' and the objectives of the Climate Change Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

Role for consumers

WRAP says that if the targets are to be met, consumers must also play their part by reducing waste in the home. Signatories to the commitment are to help consumers in this through waste reduction campaigns such as Love Food Hate Waste, as well as implementing ‘clearer product labelling and improved packaging design, while also tackling their own waste in the supply chain’.

Previous phases of the Commitment, Courtauld 1 and 2, cut grocery packaging waste by approximately one million tonnes. Dr Liz Goodwin, WRAP’s CEO, commented: “Courtauld 3 builds on the achievements of Courtauld 1 and 2 by tackling the areas that bring the greatest financial benefits to UK plc and deliver significant reduction in environmental impact.

“Over the course of the three phases of the agreement, a 20 per cent reduction in UK household food waste is achievable, a deeply impressive outcome.”

Waste reduction ‘crucial’

WRAP claims that the Courtauld Commitments have so far prevented 2.3 million tonnes of waste, with a value of £3.5 billion.

Lord de Mauley, Defra’s Resource Minister, said: “Together we are cutting down on waste to deliver £1.6 billion of savings, which is good for consumers, the food and drink sector and local authorities. It’s crucial that we keep reducing waste so we can continue to see significant benefits for businesses and the environment.”

Scotland’s Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, Wales’ Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, and Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, have all welcomed the beginning of the third phase of the agreement.

The commitment will now seek to ‘optimise packaging to reduce food waste and improve recyclability to help consumers and local authorities, while ensuring no increase in the carbon impact against a back drop of increasing sales volume’. WRAP states that it expects this to aid the UK governments’ ‘ambitious’ packaging recycling targets for 2013 to 2017.

Stuart Lendrum, Sainsbury’s Head of Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing, said: “Sainsbury’s is a founding member of the Courtauld Commitment and we’re delighted to continue supporting this latest phase of the agreement. Addressing the issue of food waste is very important to us and our customers and is why none of our food waste goes to landfill. We are more focused than ever on providing ways for our customers to make their food go further and waste less."

Lendrum added that under the first two phases of the Courtauld Commitment, Sainsbury's worked on increasing mixed plastics recycling, compostable packaging, black plastic recycling, milk packaging reduction, PET recycling, mixed glass recycling, and glass packaging weight reduction.

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) also welcomed the launch today, with Chief Executive Steve Lee saying: "The grocery and retail sector has a critical role to play in reducing food and packaging waste, both in terms of improving resource efficiency within the supply chain and in helping consumers to make better and more informed choices and reduce their own waste.

“The Courtauld Commitment framework will continue to act as a welcome focal point to bring major high street brands and manufacturers together and provide a mechanism to stimulate and measure progress in this area.”

Read more about the Courtauld Commitment.