Resource Use

Courtauld Commitment 2 saves £3.1 billion


Action taken to reduce food and packaging waste under the second phase of the Courtauld Commitment (Courtauld Commitment 2) has delivered £3.1 billion in cost savings, new figures released by WRAP have revealed.

Launched in 2005, the Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement that focuses on improving resource efficiency, reducing waste and minimising environmental impacts within the UK’s grocery sector. Under the scheme, WRAP works in partnership with ‘leading retailers, brand owners, manufacturers and suppliers’ to deliver improvements.

According to WRAP, ‘significant progress’ was made by the UK’s grocery sector during Courtauld Commitment 2, with signatories reducing food and packaging waste in the period 2010-2012 by 1.7 million tonnes. This, WRAP says, equates to a saving of 4.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq).

Courtauld Commitment 2 details

Measured against baseline data from the first phase of the Courtauld Commitment (in 2009), Courtauld Commitment 2 posed three targets for its 53 signatories:

  • reduce supply chain product and packaging wasteby five per cent;
  • reduce the carbon impact of packaging by 10 per cent; and
  • reduce the amount of household food waste by four per cent.

WRAP’s figures show that the first two targets were met or surpassed, however the target relating to food waste was just missed.

Specifically, the data shows that the signatories reduced product and packaging waste in the grocery supply chain, by 7.4 per cent – 217,000 tonnes less than in 2009. This was reportedly achieved by ‘focusing on preventing waste arising in the first place rather than managing it once it has been created’.

The sector also met the 10 per cent reduction target for the carbon impact of grocery packaging, with the weight of grocery packaging showing a similar decline (10.7 per cent). WRAP said that this target was achieved as a result of work undertaken to ‘innovate and optimise product packaging’, including lightweighting, using recycled content, designing packaging with recyclability in mind, and ‘changing product formats to better accommodate consumer needs (e.g. refill packs)’.

The four per cent target reduction in household food and drinks waste was narrowly missed, with signatories reducing this by 3.7 per cent (270,000 tonnes less than in 2009).

Nevertheless, WRAP reports that avoidable household food waste shows a decline of 5.3 per cent, equating to a £700 million saving for consumers and £20 million for local authorities.

WRAP said: ‘These achievements should be considered in the context of rising production and sales volumes as well as number of households. When these are taken into account, relative reductions of 8.3 per cent in supply chain waste, 14.8 per cent in the carbon impact of packaging and 6.1 per cent in total household food waste have been achieved.

'Collaborative working achieves results'

Speaking of the results from phase two, Dr Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, said: "During the course of Courtauld 2 financial savings of around £3.1 billion were made, by signatories and their customers. These are impressive results. The final outcome of phase 2 shows how collaborative working achieves results that have financial benefits to the UK and deliver significant reductions in environmental impact.

"We know there is still more we can do and I’m delighted to see 50 leading retailers, brands and manufacturers signed up to the Courtauld Commitment 3 showing their continued commitment."

Funded by Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments, the Courtauld Commitment also has the support of both the British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drinks Federation (FDF).

Andrew Kuyk, Director of Sustainability at the FDF, said: "Reducing waste through the Courtauld Commitment makes a major contribution to the food and drink industry’s efforts to deliver sustainable growth and improve resource efficiency. We are particularly pleased to have exceeded the five per cent target for 2010 to 2012 by achieving an absolute reduction of 7.4 per cent in food and packaging waste while still increasing output to meet higher demand."

Resource Minister Dan Rogerson, added: "Everyone has a role to play in reducing waste and I want to see more businesses helping consumers to waste less food and save money. We have made great strides in reducing food and packaging waste and I’m delighted with the progress so far. There’s still a long way to go and we will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to cut waste even further."

Defra ‘stepping back’ on waste

Despite this claim, Rogerson recently wrote to members of the waste and resources industry to say that from April 2014, Defra will be ‘stepping back’ from some aspects of waste policy – including food waste – as current programmes are ‘nearing completion’. Rogerson wrote that ‘responsibility for taking [this] work forward largely rests with the industries concerned’.

The current government’s general predilection for voluntary agreements has come under fire in some quarters, though, with some analysts insisting binding legislation would drive change much faster. Professor Anna Gilmore, a public health expert at the University of Bath, for instance, told the BBC last year: "There's no evidence that voluntary approaches work. Look at what happened with the tobacco industry.

"The internal records of the tobacco companies became available when they were sued. They show the companies pushed voluntary approaches specifically in order to avoid binding legislation. Yet independent evaluations show that these voluntary approaches were ineffective."

Courtauld Commitment 3

Courtauld Commitment Phase 3 was launched in May 2013 and will run until 2015. 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.

Read more about the results from Courtauld Commitment 2 or find out about the next phase.